Skip to comments.Police chief: Shooting of elderly woman was justified
Posted on 09/21/2012 6:30:04 AM PDT by Wolfie
The fatal Wednesday night shooting of an 83-year-old Altavista woman by police was justified, Altavista Police Chief Clay Hamilton said Thursday.
Now, family, neighbors and investigators are trying to determine if Delma Towler was a genuine threat, suffering from declining mental faculties or a victim of a horrible accident.
Shortly before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, authorities arrived at 813 Tenth St. where Towler lived alone.
A woman at the residence called 9-1-1 but hung up before speaking with dispatchers, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Thursday.
Two officers went to the home where identical statuettes of the Sacred Heart of Jesus flank the steps up to the front door.
The details leading up to the fatal shooting remain unclear.
Geller said officers made repeated attempts to determine if anyone was inside. Multiple neighbors reported seeing the police approach and hearing officers ask repeatedly for anyone inside to come out.
A handgun was fired from within the house, Geller said. She declined to elaborate on the shots fired from within the house but shattered glass from the back door littered the yard Thursday.
Towler left her house from the back door, gun in hand, Geller said. Neighbors said she walked toward her sisters home, two houses down.
Police saw her outside and ordered her to put down her weapon, Geller said. Towler pointed the gun at officers.
One fired, killing her feet from her sisters back porch.
No officers were injured.
The Police Shooting Investigative Team of the Virginia State Police is investigating the shooting at Hamiltons request.
He said the Altavista Police officers, who were carrying less-lethal weapons including tasers, mace and batons, were justified in using deadly force and followed department procedures.
Shooting to kill is appropriate whenever you feel a threat on your own life or when youre protecting someone elses, Hamilton said.
Police have responded to several calls from the victim in the past, Hamilton said. None lead to arrests.
Neighbors said they couldnt imagine anyone being scared of Towler.
I never knew her to hurt anything, Towlers grandson Carl Barbour said.
Theyre going to have to explain it to me.
Neighbor Shimice Jones said Towler was like family to the entire neighborhood.
She was just trying to get to her sister. I guess thats the only place she felt safe.
Margaret Davis said her sister frequently spoke of her fear of break-ins and had owned a handgun for years.
Two houses on the street had been burglarized in the past year and a half, neighbor Tiffany Poindexter said.
Some neighbors are furious and dont understand why police would shoot an elderly woman.
Towler wore hearing aids, neighbors noted, and may not have heard the officers identify themselves.
Her house, and the two adjacent homes, did not have apparent outdoor lights. However, there is a light on a telephone pole a few dozen feet from her home.
Everything is lit up, said Tina Hall, who lives down the street.
Authorities continue to investigate the case, Geller said. State police are conducting criminal investigations and the Altavista Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation.
Officers still are trying to confirm the timeline of events.
Meanwhile, the medical examiner has conducted a preliminary examination and confirmed Towler died of wounds caused by gunfire, but the specifics of her injuries have not been disclosed. Authorities also are not releasing the 9-1-1 recordings or in-car camera footage from the scene, citing the ongoing investigation.
The officer who pulled the trigger is on administrative leave. He has not been named, but Hamilton called him a veteran of the force with over a decade of experience.
The shooting has shaken the whole community and especially the sister Towler was trying to reach when she was shot.
It just tore some of her heart out, Jones said.
Killed her feet, eh?
On its face, I guess I cannot argue with that.
However, I have seen a video of a homeowner (holding the video camera) --
Opening his front door
Walking out to the street to where the police car is parked
Asking, "Officer, what's happening?"
The officer says "You can't film me. Get back in your house. Now."
The homeowner says, "Why do I have to do that?"
The officer says, "Sir, I feel threatened, based on the comments you made before you turned on that camera. Because I feel in danger right now, I'm asking you to get back inside your house."
The homeowner eventually got arrested, but I guess the police union might argue that shooting to kill was also an appropriate response -- after all, the officer said that he "felt threatened".
Unless she's shooting at them, right?
It is a tragedy if the women was deranged and couldn't hear the police identifying themselves and calling for her to come out of the house. She must have thought that she was being broken into but, unfortunately, there is only one reaction when the police are being shot at.
The feet she got from her sister’s back porch.
I think that is Roberta Flack’s line ....
Pointing a gun at a cop certainly crosses the Tropic of Darwin, if that is indeed what happened.
Hey Feets can be a dangerous weapon don’t ya know. So the cops felt threaten by her feet or else could be someone needs more practice at the shooting range. =)
what was her sister doing with feet?
Where did she get them? to whom do they belong?
Maybe she was going back to her sister’s to return the feet.
The police may have been standing on her sister’s back porch when they killed her feet. The statement is a little ambiguous.
managing a senior building ive seen some very scary moments whe sweet little old ladies have gone off and hit, shoved or pushed other residents and staff. An 80pnd 90y/o gave our pest control a split lip and a black eye because he said he didnt find any bed bugs when she knew they were there. the scary part of the incident was when we showed her the security footage she said it wasnt her!
Hey,boys and girls,knock it off with the jokes.Yes,the article was poorly written but if you’ve ever cared for an elderly,deteriorating relative (like I have) you know that this is no laughing matter.
Sad, as she was suffering diminished mental faculty.
In any case, if she pointed a gun at the LEO or anyone for that matter the outcome is expected and justifiable.
You make a very good point. And who knows, maybe earlier that evening someone really did try to break into the poor lady's house.
That's why police should be required to turn on their cruiser lights before they approach a residence, especially at night.
Let folks know that it's really the police.
What does this have to do with the story ... other than attempting to make the police look worse than they do for shooting this poor woman? Everyone 'lost' here ... the elderly woman lost her life, the family lost a loved one, and the police lost as well ... believe it or not, they don't shoot people for fun and the officer who pulled the trigger, no matter how justified the shooting may turn out to be, will have to live with taking that life, as will the department.
Folks in that condition should not be in possession of a firearm. Someone in the family should have made certain of it.
“Shooting to kill is appropriate whenever you feel a threat on your own life or when youre protecting someone elses, Hamilton said.”
I can argue with that, in that it predicates execution on the subjective state of mind of the police, whenever he FEELS threatened.
I would say shooting to kill is never appropriate, but somtimes justifiable when there is an overt, immediate threat to life.
Let us see who ends up owning the property after the the trial.