Fatal shooting appears justified
Wednesday, August 15, 2007CAROL ROBINSONNews staff writer
Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn said the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man by police was tragic, but appeared to be handled within departmental policy.
The Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the police department's Internal Affairs Division are investigating the Monday night shooting in Belview Heights.
Christopher Ogletree, 47, was shot after first threatening family members and then a West Precinct patrolman, authorities said.
Police were called to Ogletree's home at 1053 40th Street Ensley on a domestic dispute. A disturbance between him and the officer followed.
Ogletree refused the officer's commands to stop and the officer fired one shot and struck him. A butcher knife was recovered from next to Ogletree's body.
Paramedics witnessed the shooting, investigators said.
Ogletree's family declined comment Tuesday.
Police said family members told investigators Ogletree suffered from mental illness. Witnesses and neighbors said Ogletree, who lived with his mother, had been sitting outside in the yard day and night for several days, and they had grown concerned about his welfare.
Nunn said there's always extra attention paid and concerns raised when police wound or kill someone, especially those with mental disabilities. Despite the publicity, she said, the occurrences are few and far between.
The Birmingham Police Department on average responds to 1,900 calls for service each year dealing with mental illness. From January through June of this year, police responded to 850 such calls, she said.
"It's obvious we don't use deadly force in all incidents," she said.
A North Birmingham man died two weeks ago after Birmingham police officers used Taser stun guns on him.
Clyde Patrick, 44, was standing in the middle of the road near UAB Hospital and appeared to be talking to himself, authorities said, and cars were having to swerve to avoid hitting him. He agreed to go to the hospital, but became combative and grabbed a paramedic.
Officers deployed their Tasers and then took him to the hospital, where he later died.
The cause of his death remains under investigation.
The chief said that as national funding for the mentally ill decreases, there will be more patients without adequate care or supervision.
"What I'm concerned about is how many more are out there and not in a controlled environment where someone is there to make them take their medication," she said.
She said officers undergo training in dealing with the issue.
"We have very capable officers that deal with the mentally ill," she said.
The use of deadly force is allowed when the life of the officer or someone else is in immediate danger. Asked if that was the case Monday night, she said, "We always assume that when deadly force is used, and we hope the facts of the investigation bear that out."
Anything worth shooting once needs to be shot twice.