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Shooting of knife-wielding woman by Wichita police was justified, DA’s report says

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, at 4:05 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013, at 11:37 a.m.

Two Wichita police officers who fatally shot a 45-year-old woman last summer were justified in using deadly force to subdue her, a report from District Attorney Marc Bennett said Thursday.

Karen L. Jackson, of Wichita, died July 10 after she was shot multiple times in the front yard of her estranged husband’s house when she approached the officers with a knife. She was pronounced dead later that night at a local hospital.

The officers, who were at the home in the 700 block of North Spruce to settle a domestic dispute between the couple, believed Jackson “posed an imminent threat” to their lives and safety, the report said.

Records show Jackson was stabbing herself and shouting “Shoot me.” She then advanced toward the officers, wielding the knife.

Police told her to drop the weapon repeatedly before firing, the report said.

“Jackson’s state of mind and her intention to continue her pursuit toward the officers in a deadly fashion were clearly indicated when she yelled at the officers to shoot her,” the report said. “Therefore, it was reasonable, under these circumstances for both officers … to respond to Karen Jackson’s imminent use of unlawful deadly force by firing their service weapons at her in order to protect their own lives and the life of their fellow officer.”

Other recent police-involved shootings have also been ruled justified by the District Attorney’s Office. In August, then-District Attorney Nola Foulston found that three Wichita police officers lawfully used force when they fatally shot DeJuan Colbert during an October 2011 robbery of the Dollar General store at 2427 W. Pawnee. In November, the shooting death of Marquez Smart, 23, killed by police in March in Old Town, was also found to be justified.

Attempts to reach Karen Jackson’s family by phone Thursday were unsuccessful.

But in a July interview with The Eagle, Tyra Williams said the altercation likely would have ended peacefully had officers used a Taser or wrestled with her mother, a disabled grandmother who “drank a lot” some days and suffered from back pain and unsteady legs.

Speaking of his wife’s death, Derrick Jackson told the Wichita City Council in September: “I wouldn’t be here if I thought it was justified.”

In an e-mailed news release received from the Wichita Police Department on Thursday, Chief Norman Williams said the department will follow the DA’s findings in Jackson’s death with its own administrative review.

“We want to follow the WPD policies and make certain our members are professional and following procedures,” he said in the statement.

The officers who fired on Jackson are not identified in the DA’s report. One – a man – is a 31/2-year veteran of the Wichita Police Department.

The other, a woman, has five years on the force. She was as a reserve officer for a year before she was hired full time.

According to the DA’s report:

The two officers were at the North Spruce address to settle a dispute over a protection-from-abuse order filed by Karen Jackson against her estranged husband, Derrick Jackson. He had called 911 shortly after 10 p.m. July 10 to request police intervention. He told authorities his wife was at his home and would not leave.

He also told police his wife had mental problems.

When the two responding officers approached the house on Spruce, they saw Karen Jackson emerge with a bottle of whiskey, a beer can and a fire igniter. Under her arm was a “large butcher knife.”

Jackson ignored commands from the male officer, who had drawn his gun, to drop the knife.

She instead dropped the liquor containers and moved forward “at a steady pace,” swinging the knife.

Jackson halted briefly when officers retreated and demanded she stop. Then she stabbed herself and yelled for police to shoot her.

The female officer considered using a Taser to stop Jackson from hurting herself. But she decided not to because “moving closer would put her in more danger.”

When Jackson advanced again – “the knife out in front of her” – each officer fired two shots from 9mm semi-automatic pistols.

The female officer told investigators she fired first when Jackson was about 10 feet away. The male officer estimated Jackson’s distance at about 15 feet.

Jackson was taken by ambulance to Wesley Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead shortly before 11 p.m.

Crime scene investigators found four spent 9 mm shell casings, a butcher knife with an 81/2-inch blade and the lighter at the scene. Also recovered were a whiskey bottle and a beer can.

An autopsy conducted July 11 showed Jackson suffered gunshot wounds to her neck, right forearm and wrist, and right thigh. She also sustained stab wounds to her neck, chest and right thigh. The knife wounds did not contribute to her death, according to the coroner.

A post-mortem toxicology report showed Jackson’s blood-alcohol level was 0.28. She tested positive for nordiazepam and oxazepam, “by-products of a prescription anti-depressant,” according to the DA’s findings.

State law allows all people, including law enforcement, to defend themselves and others against unlawful force by an aggressor. Law enforcement “is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm” when they reasonably believe force is needed to avoid death or great bodily harm to themselves or others, the DA’s report says.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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