Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Police kill woman armed with crochet hook

"A Salinas woman was killed by Salinas police early Sunday morning after two officers believed she was lunging at one with of them with a knife or a ice pick.

Maria Irma De La Torre, 45, was shot twice in the torso around 3:45 a.m. by a police officer outside her home at 1143 East Laurel Drive. The officers have been placed on four days administrative leave pending an investigation.

"It's a wrongful death," said Diana Hernandez, De La Torre's niece, who added De La Torre suffered from epileptic seizures but had no history of violence or hurting herself during seizures. She was taking medication to control the seizures, Hernandez said.

De La Torre, Hernandez said, was a shy woman born in Michoacán, Mexico, but lived in Salinas "forever and a day." Hernandez said she was devoted to church and her family and because of her epilepsy was unable to work.

"It's grief everywhere," Hernandez said describing the family's mood. "My aunt, she didn't harm anyone, she was the kindest person."

According to information from the Salinas Police Department, officers responded to a 9-1-1 call "involving a woman acting strangely" at the residence.

Cmdr. Kelly McMillin said the officers thought their lives were endangered and reacted to protect their lives. De La Torre did not show any signs of having a seizure, McMillin said, and was unresponsive when police tried to talk to her.

"This is pure tragedy," McMillin said. "No one is happy the way this happened."

It is the first officer-involved shooting this year and the second since January 2007, McMillin said. The shooting last year didn't result in any injuries.

When the two officers arrived they found De La Torre sitting in a minivan in front of her home "stabbing herself in the neck with a small implement." She moved from the driver's seat to the passenger seat as the officers tried to remove her from the car, according to police.

The officers, who are not being named, had difficulty trying to restrain De La Torre while in the van, McMillin said, and claim De La Torre lunged at one of the officers with what they thought was a knife or ice pick, causing one of the officers to fire his Taser and the other officer to fire his gun shooting the woman twice.

The entire incident took place in less than 10 minutes, McMillin said, and the officers independently made the same decision to draw their weapons to stop De La Torre, one choosing his Taser, the other his gun.

McMillin said it turned out De La Torre had a metal crochet hook in her hand, not a knife or ice pick, and it isn't clear if it was the same item she used to stab herself."

So how DOES one speak to a woman for 10 minutes and in that time confuse a dull-tipped crochet hook...that they described as a "small implement"... with a knife or an ice pick?

One doesn't. The cops are trained to shoot to kill at the first sign of danger to themselves, regardless of the level of danger. Two full grown men, neither brave enough to simply grab for a woman holding nothing but a crochet hook. And one of them even double-tapped her.

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