Police: Officers kill knife-waving man in California

AP News
|
Posted: Jul 11, 2016 10:17 PM
Police: Officers kill knife-waving man in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two police officers fatally shot a knife-waving man Monday during a confrontation on a street in Sacramento, California, authorities said.

The shooting occurred after witnesses called police to report that a man was waving a knife over his head and showing "very threatening, erratic behavior," police spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said.

One witness told police the man had a gun in his waistband, Heinlein said.

The man threw an object at a police vehicle and was seen reaching for his waistband as if he was trying to retrieve a weapon, the Sacramento Police Department said in a statement.

It also said the man later raised a knife over his head while charging one officer who locked himself in his patrol car to escape injury.

Two more officers arrived and eventually shot the man when he turned toward them with the knife, Heinlein said. A news release said officers fired "multiple" shots.

Officers later found a folding knife but no gun, he said.

"He was non-compliant throughout the whole ordeal," refusing repeated commands to drop the weapon, Heinlein said. "I'm not sure if he came at the officers ... but he turned toward the officers in a threatening manner and at that point the officers fired."

The man was shot on a sidewalk while the two officers were close to him, said Officer Matthew McPhail, another police spokesman.

"It sounds like a couple of paces. I don't have an exact foot measurement," McPhail said.

The man was not immediately identified. Police described him as black and in his 50s or 60s.

The shooting came amid high tensions nationwide over recent police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, and the slaying of five Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter rally last week.

There was no indication that the man in Sacramento was targeting police officers, Heinlein said.

"It's more erratic behavior," he said of the circumstances. "At this point I don't know what his mental stability was."

Witness Alton Ford told The Sacramento Bee that officers tried to calm the man without success.

"He was cussing at them," Ford said. "They gave him plenty of opportunity."

William Portanova, a Sacramento defense attorney and former state and federal prosecutor, said officers confronted with deadly force such as a knife are "immediately authorized" to use deadly force.

Someone with a knife even 20 feet away can quickly close that gap, he said, while less-lethal alternatives like a nightstick or Taser only work at such close range.

"Both require being closer than might be safe and neither one of them is guaranteed to stop the threat," said Portanova, who has previously represented officers involved in shootings. "The choices that an officer has to make in this situation are made in fraction of a second and examined, potentially, for years."

The names of the officers involved in the shooting were not immediately released. One has 25 years on the force, and the other has 22 years.

They were not wearing body cameras and apparently did not try to use less-lethal force before they opened fire, Heinlein said.

Witness Melissa Gudis told the Bee that the man was acting erratically. She said he had a knife and a gun.

Gudis said she heard the man say: "'I'm the law, come and get me.'"

She told KCRA-TV that the man kept throwing the knife in the air before police arrived. "Then he's doing like kung fu action," she said.

Much of the area remained roped off with crime scene tape hours after the shooting.

An officer was injured during the pursuit but not by the suspect, Heinlein said. The officer was later released from a hospital.