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Published: 12/16/2009

Toledo police detail fatal shooting

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
AND BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Hicks Hicks
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Chief Mike Navarre demonstrates at a news conference how, officers say, Linda Hicks came at them with scissors, saying, ‘I'm going to kill you or you are going to have to kill me.' Chief Mike Navarre demonstrates at a news conference how, officers say, Linda Hicks came at them with scissors, saying, ‘I'm going to kill you or you are going to have to kill me.'
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When one of the mentally ill people who Tanya Murphy cares for in her home on Fernwood Avenue became agitated and violent, she called 911 and immediately asked for a crisis team.

Minutes later, 62-year-old Linda Hicks, one of two residents staying in the state-licensed Marria's Adult Family Home was dead - shot in the head Monday night by one of the two police officers dispatched to the central Toledo address because she was threatening people with scissors.

Police Chief Mike Navarre identified the officer who shot Ms. Hicks as Diane Chandler, 33, who has been on the force since 2006. The second officer at the scene was Rebecca Kenney, 34, who has been on the force since 2003.

Ms. Murphy had difficulty discussing the incident yesterday and would only say: "She came at me with the scissors."

When placing her call to 911, Ms. Murphy specifically asked for "crisis police."

Yesterday, she said the outcome should have been different.

Meanwhile, about 15 people gathered for a vigil last night outside the home at 1321 Fernwood

Ave., where mourners struggled to light candles in the blustery cold. They taped a photo of Ms. Hicks to a tree in front of the home and placed items that she loved beneath it, including stuffed animals and a package of Ramen noodles.


Gloria Wright, who went to school with Ms. Hicks, said she believed the woman could have been subdued without lethal force. "They could have shut the door," she said. "They could have shot her in the leg."

Ms. Murphy said Ms. Hicks had threatened her with the scissors: "She was going through something."

Ms. Murphy had told the 911 operator that Ms. Hicks had a history of schizophrenia and was not taking her medication.

Chief Navarre said yesterday that Officer Chandler did in fact have formal "crisis intervention training," which is offered to police so they can handle such situations.

Chief Navarre said the two officers arrived on the scene very quickly - just three minutes after Ms. Murphy called 911 - because they were investigating a burglary at a nearby address.

"They were told basically that this Linda Hicks had not been taking her medication, had been threatening people, was acting up, was agitated, and, we are told, she had this pair of scissors in her hand that she was threatening people with, so they went upstairs," the chief said.

"The bedroom door was shut; they knocked; they opened the door; Linda Hicks was laying on the bed; she had her hands under a pillow - appeared that she may have something in her hands."

Ms. Hicks refused to comply when the two female officers ordered her to show her hands.

They then tried to subdue Ms. Hicks with a Taser.

"Officer Kenney tried to deploy her Taser and the Taser malfunctioned," Chief Navarre said. "The cartridge did not deploy in the manner that it's supposed to, so without the cartridge, she was able to use the Taser in a drive stun mode - a kind of a hand-held mode."

The chief said Ms. Hicks then got up from the bed with the scissors in her left hand, became very agitated, and told the officers, "•'I'm going to kill you or you are going to have to kill me.'•"

"Officer Chandler and Officer Kenney both indicated that Linda Hicks advanced toward Officer Chandler with scissors in a raised position … and Officer Chandler fired four times," Chief Navarre said.

He said Ms. Hicks may have been struck by all four bullets, including two in the head.

Chief Navarre said one of the bullets hit the scissors and shattered one of the blades, and that the bullet also shattered.

"So it's possible that a couple of those entrance wounds were caused by the same bullet," he said.

Both officers are off duty and will be on administrative leave.

Chief Navarre read to reporters yesterday from the department's "use of deadly force policy," which states that "officers are permitted to use deadly/lethal options when it's reasonable to believe that a subject poses an immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."

"Officer Chandler indicated that she fired because she thought that her life was in imminent danger," he said. "That is a matter that will be put before the firearms review board when they review this matter."

The chief said the investigation would take three to four weeks.

"The other thing that normally happens in these types of cases, the investigative report is submitted to Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates. She will either personally review the investigative file or she will have one of her assistant prosecutors review the file, and her office will make a decision whether this will be presented to a grand jury for their review."

The chief also said he invited Jacqueline Martin of the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board to attend yesterday's news conference.

Ms. Martin said the victim, Ms. Hicks, had been a "very engaged consumer" and received services from the board for several years. "This was an unusual behavior pattern for this particular consumer, and we regret this incident ended in fatality," Ms. Martin said.

She expressed further concern about the incident. "If the mental illness is the precipitating issue in an incident … then you interact with them very differently than you would a criminal," Ms. Martin said, adding that the officer's use of deadly force "worries us."

The board reviews annually the curriculum of their 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training program for local law enforcement and security personnel, Ms. Martin said.

At least 165 Toledo police officers have completed the training since the program's inception in 2001.

The last two years of training have marked the lowest numbers of participating Toledo police since the program was introduced. While 29 officers finished the training in 2001, only eight Toledo police participated in annual training sessions in 2008 and 2009.

Richard Arnold, a consumer advocate for the mentally ill, yesterday called on the county's mental health and recovery services board to conduct a public forum for caregivers and family members of mentally ill people. He said there have been four fatal shootings by Toledo police of mentally ill people since July, 2008.

He said he doesn't blame the police officers but said in each case the victims were all known to have mental illness and should have had more case management to help them cope with their illness.

"These are not isolated loners who live by themselves and one day they snap," said Mr. Arnold, who this year served on a committee appointed by the Lucas County commissioners to review the mental health board. "They were people that had significant contact with families or caregivers who tried to get help and could not."

The chief said Ms. Murphy told police that Ms. Hicks did not take her medication yesterday.

"This happened very quickly," the chief said. "I want to emphasize that fact that when officers are put into these positions, there are a number of questions that go through their mind before they make that decision to pull that trigger, and they have to answer those questions in literally a fraction of a second."

Police Capt. Ray Carroll said the officers and Ms. Hicks were in a very small room together.

"It was a very contained area - small room, small staircase - and the proximity was very close," Captain Carroll said.

Deputy Police Chief Don Kenney, who is the father-in-law of Officer Kenney, said the distance between Ms. Hicks and Officer Chandler was estimated at three to seven feet. "You have to remember that the killing range of a knife or scissor is 25 to 30 feet so that's a long way," Chief Kenney said.

The incident is the fifth this year in which Toledo police have shot and killed a suspect.

Chief Navarre acknowledged that number is "very high."

Chief Navarre said he couldn't rule the shooting yesterday as justified until after a full investigation. But he said "the preliminary information that we have would indicate that she acted in self-defense."

The chief also said the Taser malfunction would be investigated.

Outrage from afar

Former Toledoan Gerald Rose of Marietta, Ga., near Atlanta, who founded the nonprofit New Order National Human Rights Organization, said he was outraged by the shooting and compared it to the shooting death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston by undercover Atlanta police officers in 2006.

"Even though I relocated to Atlanta, my heart and roots are in my hometown, and when I heard a 62-year-old woman with mental problems was shot and killed, of course I had some real concerns," Mr. Rose said. "If something like this happens in Atlanta, we get justice."

Mr. Rose said he would travel to Toledo this weekend.

"I am not coming there to take over but I am coming there to join a movement," he said. "We want to make sure this case doesn't just go away."

Staff writers Julie McKinnon, Carl Ryan, and Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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