August 19th, 2009 07:46 AM
6 Cops, 59 Shots, 43 Wounds, 1 Dead in Tenn.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Alonzo Heyward carried a rifle around his low-rent neighborhood one day last month, ranting about suicide and ignoring the pleas of friends for hours before six Chattanooga police officers surrounded him on his front porch and decided it had to end.
His father says Heyward told the officers, "I'm not out here to hurt anybody."
But the police, who tried unsuccessfully to disarm Heyward, fired 59 rounds to kill him on July 18. The medical examiner found 43 bullet wounds in his chest, face, arms, hands, legs, buttocks and groin. Police contend Heyward was a danger to others and threatened the six officers.
Chattanooga police spokeswoman Jerri Weary described the case as "suicide by cop."
As questions continue to surround the shooting, Heyward's family and civil rights leaders take issue with the police response.
"We have a large concern about the amount of shots fired," said Valoria Armstrong, president of the NAACP branch in Chattanooga.
A Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial cartoon asked "IS THIS EXCESSIVE FORCE?" — spelling out the question with letters labeling the wounds in a drawing based on Heyward's autopsy report.
His father, James Marine, 61, does not believe Heyward really wanted to kill himself or that he was trying to commit "suicide by cop."
"He just needed somebody to talk to," Marine said. ... "I believe he was just depressed at that time."
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe is ongoing. Federal and local authorities are awaiting the TBI report before they do their own examinations of the case. Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox said he wants to see the TBI report before deciding whether to pursue a criminal case.
Heyward, a 32-year-old moving company employee, was black. The six officers are white. They were temporarily placed on administrative leave but have since returned to work.
Police spokeswoman Weary said the officers confronted Heyward when they responded to a report of three men wrestling over a gun in the street just after 4 a.m.
Heyward's father said there was never any wrestling over the .44 Magnum rifle that his son was carrying and sometimes pointing at his chin.
Police said the officers tried but failed to disarm Heyward with a stun gun. Weary said Heyward ignored repeated commands to drop the rifle and officers fired when they felt threatened by the way he moved it.
Police accounts and a patrol car video indicate the shots were fired in three volleys, all within 30 seconds. Each officer used a .45-caliber pistol. Some officers emptied their magazines, reloaded and fired again, while others didn't fire all their bullets, Weary said.
Some of the gunshots ripped through the unoccupied front room of the house Heyward was renting from his employer, the owner of a local moving company. No one else was injured.
The FBI and Justice Department do not keep national "suicide by cop" statistics. FBI records from September 2008 show 391 "justifiable homicides" by law enforcement in 2007, up slightly from the previous year.
Eugene O'Donnell, a former policeman and prosecutor who is now a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said there is "no magic number" when it comes to officers firing at a suspect.
If death is believed to be imminent "there isn't anybody in the country who can tell the cops 10 shots and no more," O'Donnell said.
"Unfortunately this is replicated all over the country. When you send the police they bring deadly force with them. They come armed and they come predisposed to use force," O'Donnell said.
According to court records, Heyward had been charged three times in the past with domestic assault. The first two were dismissed. The third, from a January 2008 incident, remained pending at the time of his death.
He was sentenced in 2005 to 11 months, 29 days in the county workhouse for passing worthless checks, but the sentence was suspended for good behavior and he was given probation.
He also had a few driving related charges on his record, including a violation of the auto registration law for which he received a 30 day suspended sentence in 1997.
The morning he died, Heyward was distraught after returning from a party where he had been drinking, his father said.
"He didn't think anybody cared about him," Marine said.
Heyward was also upset about not seeing his children — a daughter and two sons — according to brother James Heyward.
The video shows that police were told Heyward was drunk and talking about killing himself before they started shooting.
Chattanooga police officers get two to four hours of training annually on dealing with people who are mentally ill or under the influence of drugs or narcotics. But Weary said the training could not be applied in this case because the situation was too fluid and unfolded too quickly.
Weary wouldn't say whether Heyward had a history of mental health problems, citing the ongoing investigation. Marine said his son had no history of mental illness.
Amanda Counts, Heyward's girlfriend, and neighbor Darrell Turner said they witnessed the shooting. They said Heyward was lying on the porch on top of the rifle when officers opened fire.
"Before the first shot was fired he was down," Counts said. "Not one time did he threaten anyone."
Citing the ongoing investigation, police declined to answer questions about Heyward's position when officers started shooting.
Counts and Turner both said that during the first brief interruption in the barrage of police gunshots, they heard Heyward ask, "Why are you shooting me?"
That cannot be heard in the recording provided by police.
Police Chief Freeman Cooper this month told Chattanooga radio station WGOW the simultaneous shooting by all six officers shows they acted properly.
"We are saying that our people did what we trained them to do," the police chief said.
The officers involved in the shooting had between three and six years on the force.
Heyward's father said he thinks a different police response could have brought the incident last month to a peaceful conclusion.
"I believe he would have put that weapon down," Marine said. "They should have said, 'Mr. Heyward, put the weapon down. We're here to help you.' ... He wasn't threatening no one."
Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.
Senior Instructor for Tactical and Defensive of Texas
August 19th, 2009 07:57 AM
Im not condoning how many shots were fired into the suspect, however when youre armed and ordered to lay down your weapon, that is a LAWFUL COMMAND, and in not doing so they may have felt there was an imminent threat,
I dont know I wasnt there, but if I rolled up on the scene where a man had a weapon, threatened to hurt himself or others, Deadly force may be the only outcome...
Like I said im not saying that they needed to fire that many shots either, but lethal force may have been the only option
August 19th, 2009 08:00 AM
Sounds like the officers did the right thing.
Amazing some people dont think a guy acting
all crazy and waving a gun around in a neighborhood
is not going to get shot many times by police who are
trained to shoot until the threat is down thus ensuring
they go home at the end of their shift.
August 19th, 2009 08:17 AM
Why is it that the community leaders only get involved with a police shooting? There are many other murders in the area that draws no criticism. Running in the street with a rifle to head threatening suicide is a sure fore way to draw police attention. In the police shooting the offender was shooting at traffic and ordered to drop his firearm. He failed to comply and was shot. I wonder if the community leaders are in on the take of the neighborhood business and have no objections to a gangster killing another gangster as it's just all in a days business.
To see video of the community meeting click on link.
NAACP Meeting - News Channel 9
August 19th, 2009 08:47 AM
To me the NAACP always sticks thier nose were it DONT belong
A Native Floridian = RARE
IT'S OUR RIGHTS>THEY WANT TO WRONG
August 19th, 2009 08:50 AM
August 19th, 2009 08:52 AM
It says this guy was laying down when police fired the shots. Sounds like he was in the prone position, with the rifle, which would make it difficult to determine if he was still a threat.
Community leaders would make exceptional crime scene investigators. They have shown repeatedly that they can determine exactly what happened with very little information given to them.
August 19th, 2009 09:20 AM
ANYTIME an officer asks you to do something, do it. It will NEVER end well for you when you disobey an order from an officer. NEVER
August 19th, 2009 09:24 AM
You know, my first thought was "good gravy, that a LOT of gunfire!" But then I thought about how when SHTF, you're supposed to neutralize the threat, and that can often mean emptying your mag. I've heard some officers testify that they emptied their mag without even knowing it in some cases. So 6 officers, just under 60 bullets, that seems about right.
I wish folks who are just there to stir the pot would shut the H up until everyone knows what really happened, and to give LE the benefit of the doubt. I find it VERY ODD that 6 officers would just show up and have some kind of bullet party on their own, like these jackaninnies seem to want to portray. More than likely, a mentally disturbed man, talking about suicide, with a rifle, was behaving in a manner that left them no choice. HE may not have wanted to go home to his family that night, but I'd bet a month's pay all the officers did.
Don't frisk me, I am the weapon.
Sig Sauer P239 DAK (9mm)
NRA Member & Pistol Instructor
August 19th, 2009 09:30 AM
August 19th, 2009 11:14 AM
I could not agree more Bunny. Even if the 6 officers only shot twice but they all hit their mark I believe the community leaders would still say it was excessive that the man was shot 12 times. Hopefully the investigation will clear the officers, the only people that know exactly what happened are the ones who were there.
Originally Posted by Bunny
Kel-Tec P-11, Supertuck Deluxe, Wilderness Tactical Original Instructor's Belt
August 19th, 2009 12:21 PM
Depending on mood,narcotics/alcohol involved,after the cops fired he may of continued to try to aim the rifle at them which would constitute an ongoing threat,not too long ago the cop shot that guy in a firefight and hit him like 17 times with a 40 all over a lengthy period of time,that was one officer,if 6 officers empty their magazines that's 48 rounds fired assuming 7+1,I can empty a magazine on target in less than 3 seconds
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington , DC .
August 19th, 2009 12:29 PM
if this poor man had a history of depression, threatened suicide more then once, pointed a gun to his chin (as per the article) why on earth would any family member or friend allow him to remain in possession a firearm?
Why didnt the man who was depressed get any help from his community leaders before it escalated into the death of the man. Investigations are always warranted in these matters, and im sure with the political tone these days some will lose their jobs over the this unfortunate incident.
August 19th, 2009 12:33 PM
No problem here. After the first two shots he probably didn't even feel the other 41 that hit him.
Does My Wallet Make Me Look Fat? It shouldn't because Obama is taking all my money.
August 19th, 2009 12:41 PM
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