BY SUSIE CURRIE — A Hyattsville woman remains hospitalized after a city police officer shot her in the chest in the basement of her 43rd Avenue home on the morning of December 4.
The victim was armed with a knife and refusing to leave her basement, according to Lt. Chris Purvis of the Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD).
Four officers responded to a call for assistance for what Purvis called “mental-health issues.” It was the second such call to that address in 24 hours. Officers arrived shortly after 10:30 a.m.; the shooting occurred around 11:10 a.m.
“The intent was to transport her for [an emergency] evaluation,” said Purvis. In Maryland, these psychiatric evaluations require petitioning the court and demonstrating that a person is “in clear and imminent danger of doing bodily harm to yourself or others.”
But she refused to go with the officers, and also refused to remove her hands from her pockets when asked. At some point, she “displayed a knife in a threatening manner towards the officers,” according to the HCPD statement.
One of the “One of our officers attempted to subdue the woman with an electronic control device (Taser). Because the woman was wearing several layers of clothing, the Taser was not effective.”
He then shot her once in the chest, and she was “immediately taken into custody and transported to a local hospital.”
The case remains under investigation. Police are not releasing the name of anyone involved, citing the nature of the ongoing investigation. At press time, all four police officers who were in the basement with her were on paid administrative leave.
The woman’s behavior had reportedly become increasingly unusual after a recent series of distressing events, including the deaths of a close relative and a favorite pet. News of the shooting quickly spread among mental-health and disability-rights advocates.
“Sadly, the mental health crisis in our country is such that police often are called to act in place of mental health professionals,” said Hyattsville resident Marsha Mazz, who oversees the technical assistance programs for the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. “This is a terrible tragedy for the woman, her family, the officer and our community. I hope our police force can obtain some training to handle this type of situation before someone dies.”
The last time there was an officer-involved shooting in Hyattsville, said Purvis, was September 2009. The Washington Post reported at the time that a city police officer “shot and wounded a man [in the arm] after the man drove toward a group of officers who were trying to pull him over.” The driver was treated at a local hospital and later charged him with first- and second-degree assault and resisting arrest.
Police are working with the state’s attorney’s office on the investigation of the December 4 shooting.
“We have an investigative unit internally,” said Purvis. “One officer is handling the criminal component [and] another will look at … whether everything was done according to procedure.”