FORT WAYNE – Two police officers shot and killed an armed man who ran from a traffic stop Saturday on the city’s south side, bringing the number of fatal shootings by police this year to three, authorities said.
Officer Jeremy Webb, a Fort Wayne police spokesman, said an officer pulled over a red sport utility vehicle about 3:50 p.m. at Congress Avenue and Gaywood Drive. The two people in the vehicle got out and ran, Webb said.
The driver eluded police, while the passenger, a man, was chased about three blocks to the 4300 block of Spatz Avenue. He fled down an alley and then between houses where two uniformed officers confronted him in a side yard, police said.
Chief Rusty York said police had seen that the man had a handgun when he got out of the SUV and that the man kept the gun throughout the chase.
During the foot pursuit many directives were given to the suspect to stop, but those directives were ignored, York said in an email. The suspect refused to drop the handgun when ordered by the officers and directed the weapon towards them.
York said the two officers fired at the man to protect themselves.
I can say that I feel the officers reacted appropriately when confronted with a deadly force situation, the chief’s email said.
Detectives canvassed the neighborhood looking for witnesses to the shooting. Police interviewed a woman who later told The Journal Gazette she was walking on Spatz with her young son when she saw police chasing a man through the neighborhood.
Unlike the chief’s account, the woman said she did not see the man with a gun when officers confronted him.
I just heard, Get down! Get down!’ and then the whole clip let off, said the woman who asked to remain anonymous.
The woman, who did not know the victim, said he was shot while standing and that he fell forward to the ground. Police then handcuffed the man, who appeared to be 25 years old or younger, she said.
The man died at the scene. His name and those of the officers involved were not released.
While police investigated the scene, sounds of grief filled the neighborhood as people learned of the shooting. No! No! No! one woman cried.
Medics helped two women who became weak at the sight of a white sheet covering the victim’s body. Crowds gathered along the police tape, which cordoned off the entire block, and some angry bystanders shouted slurs at officers guarding the scene.
Webb said the officers involved in the shooting were placed on leave, which is department policy.
The traffic stop that led to the shooting was described by police as routine, but the reason for the stop was not released. The driver of the stopped vehicle remained at large late Saturday.
The Fort Wayne Police Department and the Indiana State Police will investigate the shooting, and the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether the officers’ use of force was justified.
This year, Fort Wayne has seen two other deadly shootings by police. On March 20, two police snipers shot a man in a house after he killed a woman and took a 3-year-old boy hostage. On Feb. 20 in the stairwell of an apartment building, a police officer shot an armed man suspected of robbing a nearby drugstore.