Police chief said he stands by his officers' actions in shooting
by Christine Bensen-Messinger, 7/21/2006
Despite new information that has been made available, Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas said his opinion of how his officers handled the incident in April that ended in the shooting death of Cheri Moore has not changed.
During a news conference on April 27, Douglas said the “preliminary results” of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting death appeared to show that the officers were justified in their actions.
“That was his interpretation (of the results),” said Humboldt County Coroner Frank Jager, who is gearing up for a July 31 coroner’s inquest into the incident.
The incident was investigated by the county’s Critical Incident Response Team, which, in this case, was made up of representatives from the Eureka Police Department, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.
During the news conference, Douglas said the statements made by the officers involved in the shooting were consistent with the evidence.
“All pieces were consistent, one with another,” he said, during the news conference. “It’s important for the community to know the officers were doing the right thing.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, Douglas said he stood by what he said.
“That was preliminary because the reports weren’t yet all completed, but the information provided was to assist us in (addressing the public),” Douglas said. “It was provided by the investigative team, which then continued the process of compiling reports, lab analysis and all the other things that needed to be accumulated.”
With the report completed, Douglas said his opinion of what transpired has “absolutely” not changed.
“There’s, of course, a process to wonder why choices were made, the choices under this particular set of circumstances, and based on what could be controlled, which were the actions of the individual, … the (police) actions were appropriate.”
Although the team’s report has been completed at this time, its results have not yet been made public.
The incident, which started as a welfare check shortly before 10 a.m. on April 14, per the request of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health Branch, ended with the shooting death of 48-year-old Moore, of Eureka, who had a history of mental illness.
During the news conference in late April, Douglas said shooting Moore was the last resort.
If it was not possible to talk Moore down and get her mental health care, Douglas said, police were hoping to be able to subdue her once she put down the flare gun.
The opportunity arose approximately two hours into the incident, which he said was sooner than he expected. At that point, Douglas said, the SWAT team members went down the hall to Moore’s residence and entered her apartment.
“The officers made legal entry under risk to themselves,” Douglas said. “They entered with the hope of catching Cheri Moore with her hands free.”
When they first saw her, according to officers’ statements, the flare gun was sitting next to her, cocked and loaded, and Douglas said she picked it up and pointed it at the officers.
“She turned, pointed it at them and they fired and she was killed,” he said.
Moore was shot five times by a rifle and at least three times by a semi-automatic shotgun. The weapons were fired by officer Rocky Harpham and Sgt. Michael Johnson, neither of whom had previously been involved in a shooting.
During the coroner’s inquest, which will take place at the Humboldt County Courthouse and is expected to last three to four days, Jager said the officers involved in the incident will be among the approximately 45 witnesses who will testify.
The inquest, which will be open to the public, will be presided over by Jager and heard by 12 randomly selected jurors who will determine what Moore’s cause of death was and whether it was justified, Jager said.
Following the inquest, the Humboldt County district attorney will decide whether any charges should be filed, although Jager said “nothing presented in the inquest can be used in a criminal or civil proceeding.”
Tuesday night, in a closed session meeting, the Eureka City Council approved up to $10,000 to pay for a private attorney to give advice to police department employees who are not covered by the Police Officers Research Association of California, said Eureka City Manager Dave Tyson.
Douglas, who said he has been subpoenaed to testify at the hearing and is included in the group who is not represented by PORAC, said he has not hired his own legal council because he has no reason to.
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