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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chief: Wichita woman stabbed herself before officers shot her

By Roy Wenzl
The Wichita Eagle

Two police officers approaching Karen Jackson to settle a domestic dispute saw her come out of a house in the 700 block of North Spruce with a whiskey bottle and a fire igniter in one hand and a knife in the other.

What followed in the next 30 to 45 seconds Tuesday night led to the fifth fatal police shooting since October.

“This is unfortunate not only for her family but for the officers who had to make that deadly decision,” Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate for the community.”

Williams said Jackson stabbed herself several times with the knife in her chest and abdomen, then walked toward the officers at a fast pace as she came out of her house.

“Shoot me,” she told them repeatedly, according to Williams. They yelled at her repeatedly to drop the knife and stop, Williams said. They could see blood on her blouse from where she had stabbed herself, and she was still stabbing herself as she approached them, he said.

“I’m not going to second-guess them,” Williams said of the officers. “… In my mind they made the right decision.”

In addition to the five deaths, nine people have been wounded in eight confrontations with police in the last nine months. No officers were hurt.

Shots were fired in three other confrontations with police since October in which no one was hit.

“In my 361/2 with the Police Department, I have never seen anything like this,” Williams said. “I can’t think of any time when we have had this many police shootings. For some reason, people are choosing to be very confrontational and are placing the officers in harm’s way.”

In nearly all those shootings, he said, people refused repeated orders from armed officers to drop their weapons and stop what they were doing.

In Tuesday’s shooting, police had come to the house on North Spruce because Jackson’s estranged husband called them. He told them he was barred by a court protection-from-abuse order from having any contact with her.

But he called them, he told police, because Jackson, 45, was at his house and would not leave. Jackson had lived at the house on Spruce, but moved out several months ago after she filed a request for the protection order.

He wanted to avoid violating his order and asked their help. He also told officers she had mental problems.

Williams said Jackson came at officers with the knife as soon as they walked up to the house.

The estranged husband’s call to police came at 10:17 p.m. Tuesday, Williams said. The man met them on the street a short distance from the house. The officers walked up to it at 10:35 p.m. The time from when the woman walked out and stabbed herself to when was shot in the street was only about 30 to 45 seconds, Williams said.

He said officers waited until the last moment to fire, backing up all the way to the far edge of the street, yelling at her to stop; she was 5 to 7 feet from one of the officers when they both fired, Williams said. One of the officers thought briefly about using a Taser to disable her, but the woman had closed the gap between them so rapidly that the officers feared for their lives, Williams said.

She died at Wesley Medical Center at 10:52 p.m.

One of the officers has two years experience with the Police Department, the other just over five, Williams said.

Williams had earlier reported that victim’s last name was Day, but police later clarified her current name was Jackson.

The shooting will be investigated by the Police Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, which is standard procedure, Williams said. He said the officers involved in the shooting will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Williams himself has survived four police shootings since 1977, shooting two men and surviving three gunshot wounds.

“Their lives are forever changed, and their families are forever changed,” Williams said of the officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting.

“Especially when officers have to use deadly force, the feelings you have before, you can never get back.”

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com.

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