National News

On Burglary Call, Officers Kill Knife-Wielding Woman

Posted September 17, 2018 11:03 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2018 11:05 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — The police fatally shot a 54-year-old woman in Queens on Monday evening after she called 911 to report a burglary at her home and then lunged at responding officers with a knife, police officials said.

The woman, whose name officials did not release Monday night, called 911 at 5:26 p.m. and reported that there was a female intruder at her duplex armed with a knife or razor.

When officers arrived six minutes later at the home, at 52-14 69th St. in the Maspeth neighborhood of Queens, the woman met them outside, identified herself as the caller, and led them upstairs into a small living space that she shared with a man who was not home, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a news conference Monday night.

While the officers were searching her second-floor apartment, she pulled out a 10-inch kitchen knife and lunged at them, police said.

One of the officers fired three shots, fatally striking the woman in her torso, Shea said.

After the woman was struck, officers tried to save her but were not successful, he said.

The knife was recovered at the scene, Shea said, and the shooting — which happened less than a minute after the officers entered the home — was recorded on an officer’s body camera.

“It appears at this time that the 911 caller and the female are one and the same,” Shea said. “Her motivation is unknown.”

It was not the first time the police had visited the home. Neighbors said a police car and an ambulance had been there about a week ago, and Shea added that “there is a history of calls to this location” for reasons “varied in nature.”

Two- and three-story houses and apartment buildings lined the block of 69th Street where the woman lived and died, and dozens of police officers were seen milling about on Monday, some in official vehicles with red and blue lights flashing.

Kevin Tang, who lives next door, described the woman who was killed as “paranoid.”

Police officials did not release the names of the officers who responded to the 911 call. Shea said they had received “extensive training,” but did not give specifics. He said the police were investigating why the woman was in her home while officers conducted their search. Asked whether that was protocol, he said, “You really take each job on its own.”

The episode was the third fatal shooting by police in New York City this year, following the deaths of Michael Hansford in January and Saheed Vassell in April.

Hansford, 52, was shot by police as he chased his landlord with a knife in the Bronx. Vassell, 34, was shot by officers in Brooklyn who mistook a pipe he pointed at them for a gun.

The New York Police Department has said that both shootings were justified, but the attorney general is investigating the death of Vassell, who had a bipolar disorder.

After Hansford’s death, police released video from officers’ body cameras in which he can be heard yelling, “Shoot me!” at officers before being shot as he moved toward his landlord.

Fatal shootings by police are unusual in New York City, but in recent years a large percentage of those shot have had known mental health issues. Facing criticism that the police department has not done enough to prevent police killings of people with mental health issues, the department has increased training for officers on how to handle encounters with people in crisis.