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