Martinsville officer justified in fatal shooting of knife-swinging attacker, prosecutor says
Officer Douglas Graham's action saved a fellow officer from injury or death, Henry County prosecutor says.
A Martinsville police officer saved a fellow officer's life with the "completely justified" fatal shooting of a knife-swinging, mentally ill man, the Henry County commonwealth's attorney said today.
Officer Douglas Graham shot Donald Barry Minter on April 29 after the 61-year-old pulled a hunting knife on a grocery store clerk, attacked a police car with the bone-handled weapon, led officers on an 80-mph chase, ignored three bursts of high-voltage Taser darts and finally raised the blade to attack another police officer, Commonwealth's Attorney Bob Bushnell said in a letter summarizing his investigation.
"Graham was completely justified in shooting Minter," Bushnell said in the letter, noting that Minter had shrugged off Officer Anita Sowers' Taser darts, swung the knife at her and raised the weapon to attack. "Indeed, had Graham hesitated or not shot at all, it is virtually certain that Minter would have killed or seriously injured Sowers."
Minter suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, his brother, David Minter, told the commonwealth's attorney. He hadn't taken medicine for the disorders for more than three years and his condition had been deteriorating, Bushnell's letter said.
"Donald Minter died not because he was a bad man, but because he was a sick man whose failure to take his medications resulted in conduct that gave the police no option but to shoot him," Bushnell wrote.
The prosecutor called on the General Assembly to enact legislation to provide monitoring of people diagnosed with serious mental disorders, "which if untreated, create a substantial risk of violence."
The police confrontation with Minter began after he paid a Kroger supermarket clerk $40 for $65 worth of groceries and cut her telephone cord with his hunting knife when she called for help, the letter said. In the parking lot of the store, on Commonwealth Boulevard in Martinsville, he attacked a police car with the knife, ignored darts from Taser guns, nearly struck two police officers and fled in his car.
Officers in three police cars and a city animal control pickup truck chased Minter about two miles. When Minter slammed on his brakes and turned, Graham rammed Minter's car and forced it off the road, Bushnell's letter said. Sowers' car, following close behind, smashed into the driver's side of Minter's car.