Fayetteville Officer, Suspect Injured in Scuffle
Posted November 17, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
FAYETTEVILLE — A Fayetteville police officer was injured in a scuffle with a homeless man Thursday afternoon. Investigators say the officer fired his weapon when the man attacked him and refused to back down.
Dozens of investigators spent the day searching for clues to determine what led to the shooting. Right now, Fayetteville's police chief is saying he believes the shooting was justified.
Police and witnesses say the struggle began when Officer Jason Sondergard attempted to arrest Richard Leon Howard.
"They were both fighting. They were fighting each other," witness Mason Montgomery says. "He was hitting Richard with a baton and after he hit him, he threw that guy Richard on the garbage can, and he grabbed his gun out, and that's when he shot Richard."
Police Chief Ron Hansen and other witnesses say the officer took out his baton after Howard threw the garbage can at him.
"The officer was trying to take the suspect into control, and the suspect had the end of his asp -- or baton -- and the officer was pleading with him to let go," Hansen says.
Hansen says Sondergard was fighting for his life and had no option but to shoot the suspect.
Sondergard was rushed to the hospital with neck and possible internal injuries.
Howard is hospitalized with a bullet wound to the lower body. Police do not believe Howard's injury is life-threatening.