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Police and fire

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9 officers fire guns in ’13, a recent high

– The four officers who fired weapons during Thursday’s fatal shooting on the city’s north side join five others this year who’ve faced similar situations – the highest number of officers involved in police action shootings in recent history, the city’s police chief said.

On Thursday morning, city police shot and killed a 22-year-old man in the 7700 block of Weymouth Court after he began shooting at officers, firing rapidly and hitting several homes.

Nine city police officers have fired weapons that have resulted in four police action shooting deaths this year, Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York said.

•On April 27, two police officers shot and killed 19-year-old Tavontae Haney, who ran from a traffic stop on the city’s south side. Haney was carrying a handgun throughout the chase and was eventually caught by officers in a side yard of a vacant home in the 4300 block of Spatz Avenue, where he pointed his weapon at the officers, police said. Officers Cameron Norris, who has been on the department for more than two years, and Officer John Drummer, a 17-year veteran of the department, were placed on paid administrative leave as part of department policy.

•On March 20, two police snipers shot Kenneth Knight, 45, after he shot a woman to death and barricaded himself inside a home at 3018 Holton Ave. with a 3-year-old boy hostage. Keith W. Wallace and Martin P. Grooms, the snipers who shot Knight, each had more than 20 years of experience on the department.

•On Feb. 20 in the stairwell of an apartment building, a police officer shot Stephen O’Neal Wattley II, who was armed with pistol-grip assault rifle and suspected of robbing a nearby drugstore. Jeffery E. Burkholder Sr., a 31-year veteran of the department, fired his weapon multiple times, striking Wattley. A second officer, who has not been named, was also placed on paid administrative leave, although he did not fire his weapon, York said. That officer is not included in the total count.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards ruled March 8 that Burkholder used justifiable force in the police action shooting.

The remaining three shootings are still under investigation by the prosecutor’s office.

And while the number of officers involved is higher than usual, that’s not the best way to measure these types of shootings, York said.

“I think part of that, just the numbers, speaks to how effectively our officers responded tactically,” York said.

“They knew that they were getting into a potentially serious call and more officers responded.”

York, who has been police chief since 2000, said four officer-involved shootings in a year is the most he can remember on his watch, a trend that he hopes doesn’t continue.

“I’m hoping, we’re all hoping, that this is just an anomaly,” York said.

jcrothers@jg.net

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