Police killed their son
and saved their lives
An armed confrontation often serves as a prelude to a deadly police shooting
Since an unarmed black teenager was shot to death last year by police in Ferguson, Mo., a national debate has raged over police use of deadly force. But the Ferguson case was an exception, according to a Washington Post database of 800 fatal police shootings in 2015. Only 5 percent occurred under the kind of murky circumstances that tend to provoke public outrage.
Above: John and Mary Jane Norman hold a photograph of their son, Kent, in their home in Indianapolis. Kent held a knife to Mary Jane’s throat this year before police officers shot and killed him. (Chris Bergin for The Washington Post)
The vast majority of people shot and killed by police were on the attack, usually with a gun. In March, for example, Wisconsin State Trooper Trevor Casper was hailed as a hero after he and a bank robber were killed in a shootout. Here are the stories of three other such shootings.
4:05 p.m., Feb. 21, 2015
On a snowy Saturday, Officer Roman Williams-Ervin frantically tried to kick down the front door of the Norman family’s home. Someone had called 911 from inside the house. All dispatchers could hear was screaming and shouting.
Williams-Ervin broke a window and reached inside to unlock the door, but the lock was jammed. He kicked again, and the door finally gave way. He and another officer stormed inside the three-bedroom home, not sure what they’d find.
Inside the kitchen, Kent Norman, 51, held a butcher knife to the neck of his 74-year-old mother, Mary Jane. His 78-year-old father lay slumped nearby.
“The only way I could describe it is three bodies all tangled up together and blood on all of them,” said Williams-Ervin, an eight-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. “I knew someone would die if I didn’t take action. It all happened so fast.”
The officers ordered Kent to drop the knife. He refused.
Roman Williams-Ervin, a 31-year-old officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, shot and killed Kent Norman in February. Norman was holding his parents hostage with a butcher knife in their kitchen.
“It was a decision that had to be made,” said Williams-Ervin, 31. “I gave Kent options, and he didn’t take those options.”
The officers opened fire, shooting seven times. Kent was shot in the chest and died almost instantly.
The fatal shooting of Kent Norman is one of at least 129 by police officers this year that involved individuals who committed attacks with weapons other than guns, including knives, hatchets, vehicles and assaults with bare hands.
Throughout his childhood and adult life, Kent Norman struggled with mental illness, his family said. He lived with his parents and often ran errands and helped them with chores. In the weeks leading up to his death, his depression deepened, they said.
Mary Jane said Kent had been drinking that Saturday. He suddenly started cursing and grabbed her hair, pummeled her with his fists and pressed her face to the granite countertop. John tried to pry his son off Mary Jane, but Kent knocked him unconscious.
“Our inability to properly treat mental illness is what forces police officers everywhere to take the lives of so many,” Mary Jane said. “We loved our son so very much.”
A photograph of Kent Norman sits in the home of his parents John and Mary Jane in Indianapolis. Kent, who suffered from depression, held Mary Jane hostage with a knife to her throat this year before police stormed the house and fatally shot him. (Chris Bergin for The Washington Post)
After the attack, John suffered a subdural hematoma, and Mary Jane had scrapes, bruises and heart problems caused by acute stress. With the increasing critical coverage of police shootings, family friends told them that some people were beginning to wonder: Had the officers shot Kent for no good reason?
“We said, ‘No, that can’t stand,’ ” Mary Jane said. From their hospital beds, Mary Jane and John crafted a statement for the media. Through a family spokesman, they thanked the officers for saving their lives.
The police department and prosecutor’s office cleared the two officers of any wrongdoing.
Later, the Norman family met with the officers, and Mary Jane hugged them.
“We didn’t want them to second-guess themselves,” she said. “You have to make life-or-death decisions. A moment’s pause could cause the death of an innocent victim or themselves.”
As for Williams-Ervin, he said he is also at peace with the final outcome.
“In my mind, I break it down like I did my job,” the officer said. “If I hadn’t taken this action, then these other folks would be dead.”
Cedrick Lamont Bishop of Cocoa, Fla., was shot and killed by a Brevard County Sheriff's Office deputy. (Floridatoday.com/Brevard County Sheriff's Office)
9:08 p.m., March 9, 2015
On a Monday night, two people called 911 to report that a man was walking through their neighborhood and firing a gun at homes and cars. One bullet had been shot into the window of a house with children inside.
Deputy Nick Worthy of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office was the first to respond. He “blacked out” his patrol car, he said, by turning off its lights and quietly driving into the neighborhood. Upon arrival, he saw a man who looked agitated — wearing shorts but no shirt — standing in the middle of the street.
Worthy, 26, stopped his squad car about 25 to 30 feet away and turned on its headlights. The man froze, Worthy recalled. Worthy then turned on his car’s blue lights. Then the man reached into his pocket and pulled out a .40-caliber handgun.
The gunman, 30-year-old Cedrick Lamont Bishop, started shooting at Worthy’s patrol car. One bullet penetrated the windshield and hit the deputy’s headrest.
Worthy, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, said his combat training kicked into gear when he saw the muzzle flash from Bishop’s gun. He grabbed his .40-caliber handgun, got out and moved quickly toward the back of his car, seeking cover from the gunfire.
“He kept coming at me,” Worthy said.
Worthy opened fire, fatally wounding Bishop, striking him in the neck and head.
The shooting of Bishop is one of at least 224 by police officers this year that occurred after individuals fired guns at police officers or civilians. In 87 percent of those cases, the gunfire was directed at officers, according to a Washington Post analysis.
After the shooting, Sheriff Wayne Ivey released a statement that chronicled Bishop’s criminal history, including his time in prison from 2007 to 2011 for burglary, cocaine possession and attempted robbery.
Attempts to reach Bishop’s family members were unsuccessful.
“Our Deputy responded to a call for assistance and was shot at before he could even get out of his patrol car, the only thing he had time to do was save his own life!” Ivey said in a statement.
He called Worthy a hero who “stood against the threat of death to protect his community.”
Worthy said he often thinks about the brief and deadly encounter.
“Taking somebody’s life, it’s never easy,” Worthy said.
Fatal police shooting of Donald Allen in Sand Springs, Okla.
Allen was shot on April 11 in a yard in Sand Springs, Okla. Allen, a 66-year-old veteran who was schizophrenic, pointed his gun at a Sand Springs police officer who had been called to investigate gunshots in the neighborhood.
8:15 a.m., April 11, 2015
Sand Springs, Okla. Donald Allen, 66, was shooting his gun in his back yard on a Saturday morning. A concerned neighbor called 911, and two Sand Springs police officers soon arrived at the back door of Allen’s house. He brandished a .22-caliber pistol in the doorway and then retreated inside.
Minutes later, Allen emerged from the front door holding the gun, according to camera footage from police body cameras. Allen yelled at 25-year-old Officer Brian Barnett to leave his property. He walked toward the officer, raising his gun — eventually coming within five feet of the officer.
“Drop the gun, man,” the officer told Allen. “Don’t come any further. Don’t do it, sir. Don’t. Don’t.”
The officer fired four times, striking Allen in his abdomen and in his chest.
The second officer, James Holforty, ran to get his medic bag from his squad car. As the two officers tended to Allen’s wounds, a body camera recorded their conversation.
“What was he thinking, man?” Barnett asked.
“He probably wasn’t,” Holforty said.
“What am I supposed to do?” Barnett said. “Get shot?”
“Dude, you did the right thing, man,” Holforty said. “You can’t control his actions.”
Allen, a Vietnam veteran with paranoid schizophrenia, was pronounced dead at the scene. Local and state investigators cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
The fatal shooting of Allen is one of at least 242 this year that occurred after individuals brandished guns at police officers or civilians, according to a Washington Post analysis.
In Sand Springs, a town of 19,000, it had been 17 years since the last shooting by a police officer, Police Chief Mike Carter said. “Some people buy into the drumbeat that police are looking to shoot someone every day,” he said. “That’s not the case.”
Allen’s 72-year-old widow, Beverly, was inside the home when the shooting occurred. She called the shooting tragic. She is not sure what was going on in her husband’s head.
“I feel like maybe the police didn’t have to shoot to kill,” she said. “But I’m not blaming [the officer]. I know it happened fast. I’m not holding any grudges.”
Chief Carter said the video shows that Barnett remained calm, refrained from cursing and spoke with respect by addressing Allen as “sir.”
After the shooting, Barnett can be heard saying “C’mon, buddy” to Allen as they waited for an ambulance. Barnett preferred not to comment for this article, the chief said.
“It’s difficult to watch, because you know what is going through that officer’s mind,” the chief said of the video. “He’s sad over it. This was not a bloodthirsty officer.”