HUNTINGTON, WV-- A father-daughter fist fight ended early Friday morning with a city police officer killing the father just outside of his Guyandotte home.
Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook, calling the killing justified, said a preliminary investigation shows Raymond Adkins, 59, was shot as he barged out of the house and reached for an officer's bean-bag gun.
Daughter Leanna Adkins said she disagreed with that account, although a neighboring eyewitness told a story similar to that of the police. The daughter on Friday criticized the police and described the fight that preceded her father's death. She said they exchanged punches in an argument that started with her father's hunt for a vehicle registration card.
"The last conversation me and my dad had was an argument," she said. "I've got to live with that for the rest of my life. So does my mom."
Holbrook opened a Friday afternoon press conference with condolences for the Adkins family, then offered a timeline that started with an 11:39 p.m. domestic violence call at 505 Richmond St. Officers quickly confirmed a family member had been injured and then moved to detain the alleged abuser.
That process would take 30 minutes as Raymond Adkins refused to exit his home. Holbrook said his failure to cooperate, coupled with reports of erratic behavior, prompted a police response of multiple officers, ballistic shields, a less-than-lethal bean-bag gun and actual firearms.
About 12:17 a.m. officers kicked open the front door, and Raymond Adkins charged outside. Holbrook said Adkins focused on Huntington Police Lt. Alan Rohrig, who possessed the bean-bag gun.
Rohrig fired one bean-bag round that struck Raymond Adkins in the torso, but that didn't stop him. Adkins grabbed the bean-bag gun with two hands and tried to push it toward Rohrig, who managed to keep one hand on that weapon, Holbrook said.
Rohrig's partner, Huntington Police officer Travis S. Hagan, feared for Rohrig's safety and fired his .45 caliber weapon. Holbrook said that bullet struck Adkins' back and exited though his front torso.
Hagan was placed on administrative leave as a matter of protocol, Holbrook said. Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles and Holbrook said Hagan had reason to fear for Rohrig's safety because a bean-bag shot at close range to Rohrig's face might have caused serious injury. Such weapons are designed to be fire several feet from the intended target.
The chief's account was similar to that of neighboring eyewitness Eric Lezu. He heard a ruckus about midnight. He said Raymond Adkins' wife and daughter looked on as police crowded onto the porch and kicked the front door to urge surrender.
Adkins came out with a head of force seconds later.
"I mean he rushed those officers. It was nuts how quick," Lezu said. "There was so much force, it took all of the officers and the guy that got shot off the front porch."
Lezu reported hearing one gunshot and the incident was over. Neighbors Barbara Stewart and David Lambert also recalled hearing a single gunshot.
Leanna Adkins heard two shots -- the bean-bag blast followed by a louder gunshot. She agrees that her father refused to exit the house, at one point recalling he had told police they would have to come inside and get him.
From there her story begins to differ. She initially told reporters that police dragged her father from the house. She then clarified the point, saying officers led him outside with a grasp on each arm and shot him. Never did he reach for their gun, she said.
Leanna Adkins also disagreed with what followed. She alleges the police stood by and allowed her father to die.
After first handcuffing Raymond Adkins, Holbrook said officers noticed he had been shot and started CPR. Medics were called at 12:18 a.m. and arrived six minutes later from the W.Va. 2 station at 12:24 a.m.
Gordon Merry, director of Cabell County Emergency Medical Services, agreed with Holbrook's account. He said medics noted the officers had been administering CPR.
Medics then stepped in with CPR. Their ambulance was there for about six minutes and left at 12:30 a.m., arriving at the hospital by 12:35 a.m., according to Merry and Holbrook.
Lezu said he believes such a killing was justified, if Adkins actually reached for the gun as the officers claim. However, he worries the Police Department as a whole might be too quick to act. For instance, he said officers shot his dog in October after saying it charged at them.
"They seem a little trigger happy, to be honest with you," he said. "Too quick to act in aggression. As opposed to being there to protect and serve, they are there to bring you down and do whatever it takes. My opinion is 50-50."
Holbrook said he can't really speak to conclusions others may draw, but he said every discharge of a police firearm prompts an internal review.
"At no time did they take an aggressive stance," Holbrook said of Friday's shooting. "Police actions oftentimes are split-second decisions. It comes with great responsibility and we recognize that."
Holbrook said officers fire their weapon to stop the threat, not slow it down. He said, for instance, a gunshot to the foot may slow an assailant but still allow him to retrieve a gun and fire at police.
Hagan's case will be investigated by the Huntington Police Department's Criminal Investigations Bureau and the Office of Professional Standards. Those findings then will be turned over to the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office for presentment to a grand jury.
Hagan could return to work prior to the grand jury meeting, if Holbrook believes internal investigations satisfactorily clear him of any administrative or criminal wrongdoing. His return to service also depends upon his mental, emotional and physical well being. Hagan has been on the force for five years.