Related topics

Relatives Criticize Police Shooting

December 30, 1998

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ A 19-year-old black woman was killed by police who apparently fired at least 27 bullets at her as she sat locked in a car with a gun, and black leaders and family members want answers.

``For a community like this that’s close-knit, there could be big ramifications behind something like this if we don’t handle it correctly,″ said Don Bardo, president of the area’s Urban League, the civil rights organization.

Police Chief Jerry Carroll met with black community leaders Monday night after a relative who saw Tyisha Shenee Miller die said she was unconscious and couldn’t have raised a gun at officers, as police claimed.

Carroll, chief for about 15 months, was praised by community leaders who said he has instilled a sense of openness into the department. And while demanding answers, Bardo and others say police should be given time to properly investigate.

``I do think that there could be serious implications if we jump to conclusions without really knowing all of the facts,″ said Eunice Williamson, president of the Riverside chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Four officers, three white and one Hispanic, as well as a sergeant were placed on leave while the shooting is investigated. Ms. Miller is black.

Ms. Miller had pulled into a gas station parking lot early Monday with a flat tire. Relatives who arrived to help her said they called police after Ms. Miller, who had a gun on her lap, appeared to be having a seizure and was foaming at the mouth.

Police said they found the car locked, the windows rolled up and the engine running. They said they identified themselves and yelled instructions to the woman, but she did not respond.

Officers then broke a passenger window and tried to get into the car, and Ms. Miller woke up and raised the gun, the police chief said.

``She did touch the weapon. She did grab the weapon″ and police fired, said Sgt. Chris Manning.

On Monday, police backed off earlier statements that Ms. Miller had fired a shot at officers. Relatives also disputed that she grabbed a gun.

Anthonete Joiner told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside that her cousin ``never moved. She was reclined on her seat.″

The police department and the district attorney’s office are investigating and a federal civil rights probe could follow, Manning said.

``That’s not unusual″ in police shootings, he said. ``The confidence by the community is only reinforced by our openness to being reviewed.″

Manning would not say how many officers fired their .40-caliber, 12-round semiautomatic handguns or specify how many shots were fired. Bernell Butler, a friend of the family, said he counted 27 shell casings at the scene. TV news reports showed at least 27 evidence markers on the ground, and the windows of the car were shattered.

Manning said officers have just as many questions as residents.

``This is a very difficult situation,″ Manning said. ``Nineteen years old is very young. The officers involved in the shooting, they’re traumatized by it.″

It was the seventh deadly shooting by Riverside police this year _ about the same total as in previous years, Manning said.

The city of 238,000, which is about 7 percent black and 16 percent Hispanic, sprawls near the Santa Ana River 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Update hourly