FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A woman who was armed with scissors was shot five times and killed by police over the weekend in a small eastern Arizona community, authorities said.
A Winslow police officer responded to a convenience store Sunday on a report of shoplifting and found Loreal Tsingine, a 27-year-old woman who fit the description of the suspect, said Winslow police Lt. Jim Sepi.
Tsingine struggled physically with the officer who tried to take her into custody and threatened the officer with scissors, police said.
The officer responded by shooting Tsingine five times on a sidewalk a couple of blocks from the store, said Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Raul Garcia. He said the agency will not comment further on Tsingine's actions, words or demeanor until it investigates further.
Sepi said the Winslow Police Department immediately asked for an external investigation and is confident the Department of Public Safety will be thorough and unbiased as it interviews witnesses, does ballistics testing and gathers evidence over the next few weeks or months.
"We want to know how many times she was shot and why he shot her so many times?" Floranda Dempsey, an aunt of Tsingine, told Phoenix TV station KPNX. "We want justice."
Authorities are refusing to identify the officer, who started a career in law enforcement three years ago with the Winslow Police Department and was wearing a body camera when the shooting occurred, Sepi said. A second Winslow police officer arrived after the shooting, he said.
"We understand there are consequences for breaking the law, but it shouldn't have to be that extreme," Dempsey said of her niece, who grew up on the Navajo Nation in the Teetso community and was primarily raised by her grandmother.
Winslow borders the Navajo Nation about an hour east of Flagstaff and has a large American Indian population. The city was immortalized in pop culture by the 1972 by the Eagles' song, "Take it Easy," with the lyrics: "Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona."
The shooting comes amid heightened tension around the country with law enforcement over police shootings, including incidents in Cleveland, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri. The Winslow shooting prompted comments from hundreds of people on social media who questioned whether the number of shots was excessive considering the woman was armed with scissors, and others who defended the officer's actions.
Stan Kephart, who runs a Phoenix-based consulting business on police practices and security, said the officer would have had to feel he or she would be gravely injured or killed to justify lethal force. The distance between the officer and Tsingine, their states of mind and options for non-lethal force also will be part of the investigation, he said.
Kephart cautioned against jumping to conclusions before the Department of Public Safety completes its investigation.
"Let's let the facts determine what is going to happen, not emotion," he said. "That's so easy to say but hard to do."