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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Role of Dementia, Despondency, and Mental Illness in Police Involved Shootings: September 2011


     In Garden Grove, California, at 7:35 AM on September 9, police responded to a home after family members called 911 to report that 76-year-old Edward Lee Royce was threatening to kill himself. The officers encountered Royce standing in his backyard holding a handgun. Officers shot Royce with a beanbag gun. The subject then shot himself in the head. The investigation of the incident, by the Orange County District Attorney's Office is ongoing. Although an autopsy has been performed, the authorities have not released the official cause of Mr. Royce's death. He had been despondent over medical problems.

     In January, in unrelated incidents, the Garden Grove police shot and killed two men.


     At noon on September 15, police in Gardena wounded 58-year-old Noel Salinas. Salinas, the owner of a computer business, was behind in his rent and about to lose his shop on Van Ness Avenue. The Gardena police had received a calls of an armed man threatening to kill himself and his landlord. When encountered by the officers, Salinas was holding a handgun in one hand and a knife in the other. Instead of dropping the weapons, the subject retreated into a motor home behind his business. A short time later Salinas emerged from the motor home with the gun in hand. Police ordered him to stop. When Salinas didn't comply, they shot him. People who know Salinas reported that since the death of his wife five years ago, Mr. Salinas has been severely depressed. This was the first police involved shooting of the year in Gardena.


     On September 17, officers from the Indiana State Police, the Decatur Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a man with a handgun in downtown Decatur. At 11:50 PM officers found 67-year-old Jerry L. Nusbaum waving a handgun in the air and speaking inchoherently. Ten minutes later, when Nusbaum raised his gun toward the officers, a state trooper fired his .223-caliber rifle, striking the subject in the right arm and upper chest. Medics flew Nusbaum to a hospital in Fort Wayne. He survived the shooting. This was the first incident of its kind this year in Decatur.


     On September 22, in Interstate 394 in Golden Valley, a suburban area west of Minneapolis, the police fatally shot 57-year-old Katherine Gordon after pulling her over for speeding up to 90 hours per hour. The officers opened fire when she pointed a handgun in their direction. Two months earlier, Gordon had showed up at the police station in Edina, Minnesota where she announced that the Devil had been talking to her. She asked to be locked up to prevent hurting herself and others. As a result, the authorities hospitalized her for 72 hours. This apparent suicide-by-cop shooting was the first police-involved shooting of the year in Golden Valley.


     On Sunday, September 25, Lubbock police received a call that men were trying to break into an apartment. When the officers arrived at the scene, 90-year-old Willie John Williams, the resident of a neighboring apartment, fired shots at them. The police returned fire, wounding Mr. Williams. It is believed the subject's behavior was the result of dementia and confusion.

     The Lubbock police shot and killed a man on February 20, 2011. Mr. Williams is the oldest person to be shot by the police this year.

     In September, the police in Pendleton, Issaquah and Spokane, Washington; Tampa, Florida; Farmingdale, Maine; and Dundalk, Maryland also shot mentally unstable and/or suicidal citizens.

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