Shooting Outside of the Police Station Scrutinized

Donna Russell of Eleanor Roosevelt Circle explains to the City Council on Dec. 3 the events of Nov.15 outside the police department.

At the December 3 Davis City Council meeting, Eleanor Roosevelt Circle resident Donna Russell addressed the Davis City Council during public comment about an incident on November 15 at around 5:15 when a man shot himself in front of the lobby doors outside of the Davis Police Station.

Ms. Russell was there to give a police report and was the first person to get to the man.

“I found several things highly disturbing about this,” she said.  “The least of this unfortunately was that the man shot himself.”

“What was disturbing to me was several of the actions of the police department,” she continued explaining that she used to work as a nurse.  “I am not a naïve citizen about the police department.”  Her father was a police officer for twenty years before being killed in the line of duty.  She studied law enforcement herself and was just shy of a degree in it.

She described police rushing out from all doorways and openly discussing that they had been looking for this man all day long, they knew he had been suicidal.

According to the police report, about 15 minutes earlier, several officers were dispatched to a residential area in East Davis regarding a man who wanted to kill himself using a handgun. According to the report, “Officers were also given clear information he may cause an event so that another person would kill him. This was reported by close family members. Arriving officers learned he had just left in a car.”

The Davis Police records specialist working at the front counter saw a male at the front door suddenly drop, as if he fainted. The community room off the main lobby was open at the time and several bystanders where there getting ready to do training.

“A plain clothes officer, who was at the front counter, ran out towards the lobby thinking the male had a medical problem,” the report continued.  “She took a portable radio with her, however the radio fell off her hip when she ran out and it became inoperable.”

It continued, “Around this time the officer saw the citizens in the community room and someone told her the man had a gun and had been shot. The officer saw that the male was conscious and had a gunshot wound to his head. She saw a gun near him and moved it away.

“She told him he would be ok and he handed her a note, which made it clear what just happened. “

As the officer reached down to provide aid, the man reached for his waistband and was grabbing for a second gun.

The officer immediately grabbed the second gun from him and pushed it away. “At this time he was making comments indicating a clear plan,” the report noted.

In the meantime, the report continued, “Dispatch alerted other officers of a shooting the front door (a dispatcher supervisor also ran out to help, but when saw what  was going on ran back in to alert officers). The other responding officers (some patrol, and a few in plain clothes that donned their external carrier ballistic vests after hearing of a shooting at the lobby) did not know the one officer was already there because her radio didn’t work.”

“They also assumed it was the same person who had threatened to harm himself or have another person harm him,” the report stated.

The officers encountered the citizens in the lobby and secured them (guns were drawn and everyone was secured because they did not know the nature of the incident at the time or who was involved).

According to the report, “Completely normal critical incident protocols were followed. The protocols were likely unsettling to non-law enforcement personnel. The highest priority was to isolate and contain any threat, which was not entirely known at the time, and to protect everyone there and anyone responding.“

The report continued, “The initial officer was then able to alert the other officers she had the person somewhat secure, but he was not searched and had just reached for a second weapon.  After searching him, medical aid was immediately alerted to treat him. He survived.”

However, Ms. Russell described a somewhat different scene and felt that the officers actually put the citizens in danger.

“It was very surprising to me, that when I and the other material witness… took ourselves back in the lobby, and sat down away from the door,” she said.  “I was watching and there were about a dozen police officers with their guns drawn pointed at this man who had already just shot himself.”  She questioned the need for 12 officers to have a gun drawn on him, she called it “overkill for the situation.”

“I was almost killed by two officers as the SWAT officer removed us from seeing what they were doing (and) ordered us into the back of the building and as well went through the security door which he opened, two officers had their guns drawn and cocked at us and the only reason they didn’t shoot is because the SWAT officer started screaming at them, ‘friendlies, friendlies don’t fire,’” she explained to the mayor as he was trying to cut her off because her three minutes were up.

Councilmember Lee pushed for the rest of the story to be told and Ms. Russell continued her story.

Ms. Russell explained that the two officers who were going to shoot her and the other witness had no information or communication as to what was going on.

“They [did] so because all they heard was that there was a shooting outside, which was ridiculous because all of the dispatch people and everybody there knew who it was and what had happened and if there is not a PA system that’s workable inside the police department so that they can key a mic and let the rest of the officers know what has happened, accurately…” she said.

Ms. Russell told the council that she had already spoken with Assistant Chief Steve Pierce about the matter.  There is no additional information at this time other than what was described in the police report that the Vanguard received.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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12 thoughts on “Shooting Outside of the Police Station Scrutinized”

  1. B. Nice

    Whole this incident must he been very scary for Ms. Russell I doubt she was ever in real danger from being shot, on purpose, by police officers. The situation does sound rather chaotic though, which is always dangerous when firearms are involved, even when they are in the hands of trained individuals. A better internal communication system seems like a good idea.

  2. New Davisite

    Let me get this straight, a guy shows up outside the station, with a gun and shoots himself in the head. Officers, not knowing he shot himself, rush to aid. He then tries to pull another gun on the officer, because he wants to commit suicide by cop, and the cop knocks the gun away. Other officers arrive b/c they hear that a man with a gun is in the lobby and the woman feels too many cops had their guns drawn? Really? So some of the cops can defend themselves and some of them can’t? What if there had been another shooter stationed in the lobby?? It sounds like the cops not only tried to help the victim, they also herded the rubber neckers in the lobby away from the scene and also secured the onlookers to ensure there wasn’t a second shooter. Get a grip and use the council’s time for important things like firefighters who are killing the city’s coffers or roads and bike trails that need to be fixed or low income citizens who need help… You know… something important.

    1. Davis Progressive

      it seems her biggest concern was that she believed she almost got shot. the lack of communication concern, particularly in a chaotic situation is concerning.

          1. Frankly

            You really think she was in danger of being shot by a cop in this situation?

            As far as we know the police had trained for this type of occurrence and Ms. Russel did not use enough common sense at the time to contribute to helping the cops by removing herself from the scene so as not be considered another variable or any distraction.

            For every criticism that she or other might lay on the cops for being over-reactionary to the danger posed by this suicidal man, I would lay more on any civilian stuck in mesmerized looky-loo mode because it is inconsiderate of the job of law enforcement.

            Sounds to me that maybe she gives herself a lot of false credibility for participating (nurse, father was a cop, she studied, etc.) and maybe as a result, her actions and behaviors at the time of this event were not typical for a civilian and this drew attention from the officers.

            You are either a public safety employee or not. And if not, you should immediately decide how to help law enforcement do their job to ensure safety. And in this situation, that help would be to remove yourself from the area promptly but stay in the vicinity to help them complete their report after safety is secured.

          2. Davis Progressive

            “You really think she was in danger of being shot by a cop in this situation?”

            think i’ve done ten reviews of officer involved shootings in my career, i’m not going to say she wasn’t in danger. chaotic situations, uncertainty, poor communications… my recommendation is that the pd review what happened , which i’m sure they have and figure out how to do it better. i dont see a downside in her speaking out or the news story which also contained the police accounts.

          3. B. Nice

            I agree. In a situation, where guns are involved, the best best way for a civilian to help is to stay out of the way and do whatever they can to let police know that they are not a threat, which to me means hands in the air (no reaching in purses, backpacks, or pockets) and no sudden movement.

            I imagine it’s difficult to watch an injured person not receive immediate medical attention, but when I went through EMT training it was drilled into us that we should never enter a scene until it was secure. In order to prevent more victims, scene safety trumped the medical needs of the injured. I’m assuming the police follow this same protocol.

  3. Frankly

    The only things more over the top and unnecessary than the cops’ response to this man shooting himself is Ms. Russel’s story and the Vanguard giving it air time.

    The REAL story is that a man attempts suicide in the police station. Why? What is his story?

    Too bad we didn’t get more of that. I really don’t read anything in this piece that is newsworthy.

  4. Phil Coleman

    With the numerous bystanders similarly exposed and impacted, why is that there have been no similar pubic comments received? Why didn’t Ms. Russell report on the result of her meeting with the Assistant Chief? Surely, a Council member or the City Manager shares my curiosity on this point. Was the question ever asked?

  5. growthissue

    Way overreaction, she wasn’t almost shot. In my opinion David just can’t pass on any story where the police might look bad. Look at today’s stories, this and the West Sac cop and sexual assault.

    1. B. Nice

      What I don’t understand is why this story seems to have been bypassed by other media outlets. After listening to Ms.,Russell’s comment I tried to look up the story online and couldn’t find any reporting on it. (The Vanguard was down). Seems like a shooting at the police station would be big news, no? Was there a story in the Enterprise about the incident that I missed?

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