Skip to comments.(Austin) Woman fatally shot by police
Posted on 06/12/2002 5:34:53 PM PDT by ValerieUSA
The dead woman's family congregated Tuesday around her angry and tearful mother where yellow police tape rounded the corner of Rosewood Avenue and Poquito Street.
"They killed my baby," Brenda Elendu screamed to anyone who would listen. "They could have shot her in the leg. She was a mental patient. They didn't have to kill that child."
Across the intersection and down the block, Austin police told reporters that Elendu's daughter, Sophia King, gave officers no choice but to draw their guns when they saw her wielding a knife as she stood over a person who was on the ground.
"She was getting ready to stab a housing authority (employee)," police Lt. Robert Collins said. "She lunged. The officer fired one shot."
Reporters asked why not spray her with Mace or use a nightstick.
"There wasn't time for that," Collins said.
The bullet struck King in the heart, according to a preliminary finding by the medical examiner's office. King, 23, who was not wearing any clothing at the time of the shooting, died at 9 a.m. in the courtyard of the public housing complex where she had lived for seven months.
Police are trained to react with deadly force if a person is trying to kill an officer or someone else, Collins said.
A Travis County grand jury will determine whether 16-year veteran officer John Coffey's decision to shoot was the right one. Coffey, a former instructor at the police academy who specialized in teaching officers how to defend themselves and others, has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation, which is standard procedure when officers use deadly force. The findings of that investigation, which will be closely observed by the city's police monitor, will be presented to a grand jury.
Assistant Chief Rudy Landeros, who supervises officers in the area, said he could not recall Coffey being involved in a previous shooting. Information from internal affairs records was not available Tuesday.
Jim Hargrove, the Austin Housing Authority's executive director, said King had lived in public housing since 1997. Police and her family said she was suffering from mental illness, and court officials said she had been in a state mental facility.
After her first public housing apartment burned down because of an accidental cooking fire in November, Hargrove said, King was moved to Rosewood Avenue.
Tuesday was the second time police had been called to King's apartment in two days, and the housing agency had begun the process of evicting her for consistently playing "loud music and conducting herself in an inappropriate manner," Hargrove said.
On Monday, officers checked in on her after the housing manager said neighbors complained of loud music and King's erratic behavior over the weekend, which included throwing trash out her door. The officers found everything to be OK, Hargrove said.
At least one of the two officers who first responded to 911 calls Tuesday knew of her mental disorder, Collins said.
Neither Coffey nor the other officer was part of the department's mental health unit, and police said they didn't have time to call for backup. However, Assistant Chief Rick Coy said every cadet receives at least six hours of training to deal with people with mental illness. In this case, he said, that would not have made a difference.
"The woman was standing right over the housing authority person with a knife," he said. "The officer's use of force was to prevent serious injury and had nothing to do with mental illness."
Tuesday's incident started when King began tossing personal belongings such as dishes, clothes and furniture into the courtyard and began screaming at a housing manager, who was responding to neighbors' complaints, Hargrove said.
Emergency dispatch received two 911 calls. The first, at 8:35 a.m., was a hang-up, which police think was placed from King's apartment, Collins said. They then received a call from a neighbor, complaining about the commotion.
When police arrived, King slammed the front door of her apartment and refused to come out. Coffey went around to the courtyard.
Shortly before 9 a.m., police said, King came out of her back door holding an 8- to 10-inch butcher knife and began running toward the housing employee, who stumbled and fell while attempting to flee.
Police said Coffey told King to drop the weapon several times. When she stood over the fallen employee and raised the butcher knife, police said, Coffey fired.
King leaves behind two children, ages 4 and 6, who went to live with their grandmother about a year ago. Child Protective Services took the children later Tuesday.
"We have some concerns about where the children were," CPS spokesman Aaron Reed said. "We want to make sure wherever they end up next, they will be safe and cared for."
But what happened to their mother will be difficult to explain, said King's aunt, Virgie Clement.
"They know their mother's emotionally unstable," she said. "but they won't understand."
I agree, this account appears that the officer used proper judgement. What is being said locally?
This "poor mentally ill child" was 23 and had a 6 yr old of her own.... her mama hasn't watched out for her in a long time.
I wonder how big was this enraged naked madwoman with a knife standing over a man on the ground? She could have been 5'10" and 300 pounds.
Age 23; kids 6 & 4, probably different fathers; probably a lifetime on public assistance; and so on and so on and so on......
I wonder.... Did she get pregnant with child number one while in a mental health facility?
The Spacemen's resident communist staff cartoonist will probably blame it on Bush in a few days.
Woman Killed In Officer-Involved Incident
Updated 06/11/02 - 6:25 pm
A police officer shot and killed a woman, but many residents believe it should have been handled differently.
The officer fatally shot a woman with a history of mental illness after she threatened her landlord with a knife.
It happened in the 2000 block of Rosewood Avenue, near 11th and Chicon.
Police say they are trained to meet deadly force with deadly force. That, they say, is exactly what they did Tuesday.
Austin Police say shooting and killing 23-year-old Sophia King was their only option.
"Officers yelled at her twice to drop the knife. She refused, and she lunged to stab the victim. The officer fired one shot," APD Lt. Ronald Collins said.
News 36 Video Here is the story as it aired:
King's neighbors in this East Austin neighborhood disagree.
"They should have used another method to take her down instead of just shooting her," one of King's neighbors said.
Called to King's home in the 2000 block of Rosewood, police say King slammed the door in their face, ran out the back door with a butcher knife and lunged at a housing authority employee.
"She didn't stab her, but she was in the process and when the officer felt he had no other alternative he fired one shot," Collins said.
But could prior knowledge of King's mental history and erratic behavior have prevented this incident?
"I don't think if you're standing at the front door of a residence, how you can prevent what someone inside does at all," APD Assistant Chief Rick Coy said.
Police confirm that they had been called to this location and they admit they knew this victim had a history of mental problems. That's just one fact that leads many local resident with unanswered questions.
"If there's a record on police files that this woman has a mental history, and when you engage people with a mental illness, you know that their mind-state is not going to be good so you don't go in there like that," neighbor Donald Garnett said.
A fact that didn't help Tuesday but a tool that even Chief Coy concedes could be helpful.
"It helps the officer to have knowledge when you go back to a repeat call. You probably learn ways to do things a little better the next time. Or you might learn something unique to that situation," Coy said.
Sixteen year veteran Officer John Coffey is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Police say that's standard procedure. The victim, Sophia King, leaves behind two children.
Austin Police Killing Of Knife-Wielding Woman Draws Demands For Investigation
The NAACP, the Nation of Islam and the Texas Civil Rights Project are demanding a thorough investigation into the police killing of a knife-wielding woman Tuesday. Sophia King, 23, was killed by Austin police officer John Coffey when police say Coffey tried to keep the woman from stabbing her landlord with a butcher knife.
Neighbors and family told KEYE Wednesday that King suffered from schizophrenia and Austin police had responded to other disturbance calls involving King in the past. They told KEYE they felt police should have called a mental health expert to help calm her down.
King's mother announced Wednesday she's filing a civil lawsuit through the Texas Civil Rights Project. The NAACP also said it is going to conduct an independent investigation into the incident.
Coffey is on administrative leave until a Travis County Grand Jury considers whether deadly force was dictated by the circumstances. The incident happened Tuesday morning at the Rosewood housing complex in East Austin.
Austin police say Coffey had no choice but to shoot King, who was acting erratically and wielding a knife. Police say they got a call that a woman was threatening to stab her landlord. Officers say when police arrived they warned her several times to put down the knife, but she refused.
Officers said King, who was naked, ran toward the unidentified apartment employee, who stumbled while trying to flee. Police say King then stood over the employee and raised the knife. That's when Officer Coffey shot her once. The officer has 15 years experience.
Idiot neighbors. It could have just as easily been one of them or their kids on the ground underneath this madwoman's butcher knife. It was a good shot, and they should be thankful it's over.
I doubt that picture of King is at all recent.
The Momma sure did make the decision to file a civil suit quickly, huh?
I mean, hey.. She was going to hurt someone, what are they supposed to do?
Let her finish what she was doing?....then shoot?
Is this a quiz?
The usual suspects. What about the "landlord", was he or she was also a member of the NAACP's constituency? I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. I put "landlord" in quotes because the person is also referred to as an employee of the apartment complex, and I sure don't consider the young ladies who work in the office, the handymen, or the grounds keeper of my complex to be my landlord.
My comment wasn't directed at a particular freeper..
I just got annoyed when the reporters started whining "well, well why didn't you use a stun gun?" "Why didn't you use a night stick?" "Why didn't you all join hands and sing koom-by-ahh?" "Why didn't you have a Ghandi sit down?"
It's pretty easy for them to second guess.. seeing as how they weren't the ones fixing to get stabbed and all.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.