Calif. officers shoot knife-wielding man in 'suicide by cop'
The death of the suspect was the first homicide on a train in the Regional Transit system's history
By Tillie Fong
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The man fatally shot by Sacramento police aboard a light-rail train Saturday night lunged at officers with a knife and implored them to shoot him, police said Sunday.
Police have not released the name of the 51-year-old man who died at UC Davis Medical Center late Saturday after a confrontation with officers that shut down light-rail service for hours afterward.
At 9:15 p.m., three Sacramento police officers assigned to the Regional Transit police services division responded to a report of a man with a knife aboard a train.
It was not known where he had boarded, but two RT guards reported seeing the man behaving erratically in the first car of the two-car train as it was leaving the station at Seventh and K streets.
"He was quite agitated, and he was causing a disturbance," said Lt. Norm Leong, with Regional Transit police.
The police officers boarded the train near the light-rail station at 13th and R streets, and tried to talk to the man.
At the time, he was holding his jacket in front of him so that it concealed his hands, police said.
"He did shout at the officers to shoot him," Officer Michele Gigante, Sacramento police spokeswoman, said Sunday.
When the man refused the officers' commands, one officer and then another used their Tasers on him, police said, but neither shock had an effect. Instead, the man lunged at the officers with the knife, Gigante said.
The officers backed up to avoid being stabbed or slashed, police said, and two of the officers shot him several times in the upper body. One of the officers who shot the victim had used the Taser on him earlier.
None of the officers or the passengers on board the train were hurt. Police said it was not known Sunday whether the man had threatened anyone on the train.
The officers immediately radioed that they were involved in a shooting and asked for medical assistance. The man was pronounced dead a short time later at UC Davis Medical Center.
Investigators interviewed witnesses to the shooting and recovered the man's knife and other evidence, police said.
"We believe that we have talked to all the witnesses at the scene, but if there are others, we would like them to come forward," Gigante said.
Light-rail service to the 13th Street station was stopped after the shooting, and passengers were taken by bus to and from other stations.
All three officers were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
One of the two officers involved in the shooting has been with the Sacramento police for eight years, and the other has seven years of service. Police did not release the background of the third officer, who used a Taser on the man but didn't shoot.
The shooting came less than three months after a light-rail passenger fatally shot Eric D. McCaster, 51, of Sacramento as the train they were riding in pulled into the Archives Plaza station at O and 11th streets.
Police arrested the suspect, Lynnsey Evakarla Braun, 32, on suspicion of murder. There was no evidence indicating that Braun knew McCaster. The death of McCaster was the first homicide on a train in the Regional Transit system's history.
Regional Transit officials said the recent incidents do not mean that passengers have to worry about security on the trains.
"What we had was a person that was reported by the police department as suicidal, and that is very different from the previous incident," Mike Wiley, general manager of Regional Transit, said of the Saturday night incident.
"This person decided to commit suicide, and he was successful. The fact that the person did this on a train — that does constitute a threat (to the other passengers). But we maintain a high level of security on the trains, and we will continue to do that to ensure that our passengers are safe and comfortable, and that is what we focus on," Wiley said.
He added: "There are people who become so despondent that they look for opportunities to commit suicide, and some take advantage of police officers to do that."
Copyright 2014 The Sacramento Bee