TS - 04/16/2006 Eureka shooting tragedy runs deep

TS Eureka shooting tragedy runs deep 04/16/2006

Acquaintances of Cheri Lyn Moore, the 48-year-old woman who was shot dead by police Friday afternoon, said Moore became depressed around the birthday of her late son -- who they said killed himself about five years ago.

A man who said he had been staying with Moore for the past three weeks said she was kind and not dangerous. He said he believed police could have subdued Moore without harming her.

Gary Adrian Raines did say, however, that Moore had bought a flare gun “for protection,” though he thought she was jesting when she told him that. He was shocked when he saw the scene of the shooting.

”I saw blood on the carpet today,” Raines said, “and I was scared s--tless.”

Moore was shot multiple times after a two-hour standoff at her apartment at the 500 block of G Street. Humboldt County Coroner Frank Jager said he didn't know exactly how many times she had been shot or with what type of weapon. Moore's body will be sent to Redding Monday or Tuesday, he said, where a board-certified forensic pathologist is available for a thorough examination.

”There's a lot of work to be done,” Jager said.

Jager said that Moore was known to county mental health workers, but had little other information about her Saturday. He said Moore had a 25-year-old son. Friends said Moore may also have a daughter.

Jager said that new information would probably be released by the multi-agency team investigating the shooting.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who was on the scene Friday, did not immediately return a phone call placed Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, Cheri's older brother Gary Holt called the Times-Standard inquiring about the incident. He said he planned to travel to Eureka from his Medford, Ore., home to talk with police. Holt said he intends to look into whether the shooting was justified.

”We're not sweeping this under the carpet,” Holt said.

He also added one more tragic note. Holt said that Moore's father died in his sleep Friday night.

An in-home care worker for a man in a neighboring apartment said Friday was Moore's dead son's birthday. Every year around this time, said Tammy Henry, Moore would get depressed and agitated. She also described Moore as a woman who had repeatedly been taken advantage of by some acquaintances, who stole from her until she finally stopped having people over.

Henry believes Moore was in dire need of help.

”She liked to have attention,” Henry said. “Not so much that she deserved to die.”

After being dispatched for a welfare check at about 10 a.m. Friday, police and SWAT team members cordoned off the area and evacuated the building except for Henry and Glenda Thomas, caretakers for a patient who could not be moved from his apartment, and possibly one other man.

Moore yelled from her window at times, and threw a fire extinguisher, a bike helmet and other items from her second-story apartment during the stalemate. She also communicated with acquaintances and police by cell phone before shots rang out. One man in touch with Moore by phone was told by police to stop conversing with her.

Emergency personnel went into the building after the shooting, then quickly left. Hours later, the county coroner's office removed Moore's body.

It was unclear as to whether negotiations with Moore broke down, triggering events that led to the shooting, or if something else started the chain of events.

On Saturday, Moore's door could be seen split around the knob and lock, possibly from a forced entry. SWAT team members were seen leaving the building with a battering ram shortly after the shooting. At least six bullet holes tore through a neighboring apartment, and police had apparently cut through sheet rock to pull two bullets that had lodged in the wall.

Lea Nagy with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who acts as a liaison between county mental health officials and families of mentally ill patients, was not familiar with the Friday incident. But Nagy said that there has been a focus through the Mental Health Services Act on intervening more quickly during crisis situations.

She said education of the public and police officers is critical -- and is ongoing -- especially because of the complications of standoff scenarios. Police try to do the best job they can, Nagy said, but often it's difficult to tell what an unstable individual will do.

”I think the county is aware that people need to get earlier intervention to keep this kind of thing from happening,” Nagy said.

Eureka Police Department statement

On Friday, April 14, at 9:52 a.m. the Eureka Police Department Dispatch was contacted by an employee of Humboldt County Mental Health. The staff person requested that police officers be sent to 516 G St. to check the welfare of a female who was off her medication and making threatening statements.

The employee advised Eureka police that the female would be extremely hostile to law enforcement if they contacted her. The uniformed officers who responded could hear very loud music and yelling in the apartment but could not get an answer at the door or by phone.

Eureka Police officers were assisted by the building owner in obtaining a key to the apartment. As the door to the apartment swung open, a female, partially shielded by a wall, was yelling and pointing a handgun at the officers. The officers took cover. The door to the apartment was slammed shut and locked by someone inside the apartment. Additional assistance was summoned at this time.

Attempts by the crisis negotiation personnel to speak with the female or anyone else in the apartment were unsuccessful.

Ambulance and fire personnel were staged nearby as the female had made threats to set fire to the building and to shoot people outside.

A decision was made to have the SWAT team enter the apartment if police observers, positioned across the street, believed the female had put the weapon down and they knew her location in the room. When this occurred, the SWAT team entered.

Upon the SWAT team's entry, the suspect was in possession of a weapon. The suspect was shot.

Medical aid was administered at the scene, but the suspect died. It was determined no other persons were in the room.

At the direction of EPD Chief David Douglas, the Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team was requested to conduct the investigation. The California Department of Justice assisted in the evidence collection at the scene and is conducting further forensic examinations.

The Humboldt County Coroner took custody of the deceased woman and is handling the notifications and name release.

Note: In a follow-up phone conversation, Officer Suzie Owsley told the Times-Standard that officials have not determined what type of weapon the deceased woman had, but said a flare gun would count as a handgun.

Witnesses at the scene specifically reported seeing a bright orange flare gun.

Interviews with SWAT members are ongoing and would help make a determination as to type of gun, she said.

While a man had contacted the woman by cell phone -- and told the Times-Standard that police had told him not to contact her -- Owsley said she had no further information on the crisis negotiation team's attempts to contact the woman.

John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 04/16/2006 04:24:00 AM PDT

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