OFFICERS BACK AT WORK
The six officers involved in the July 18 shooting of Alonzo Heyward were placed on seven days administrative leave with pay after the investigation. Officers Lauren Bacha, Deborah Dennison, Zachery Moody, George Romero, William Salyers and Bryan Wood were placed on paid leave, according to Chattanooga Police Department policy. All were believed to be back at work this week, Lt. Kim Noorbergen said.
Six Chattanooga police officers fired 59 bullets to subdue a suicidal armed man last month, a police spokeswoman said today.
A preliminary autopsy report shows the victim, Alonzo A. Heyward, 32, had 43 bullet holes in his body. Without question, those wounds led to his death, the medical examiner's report indicates. But police said the use of force wasn't excessive.
"When we are trained to shoot, we are trained to shoot until we subdue the threat," said Lt. Kim Noorbergen, police spokeswoman. "We are not trained to shoot to kill, as many people think."
Mr. Heyward was pointing a shotgun at his face outside the McDonald's restaurant on Rossville Boulevard in the early morning hours of July 18 when approached by police, according to previous police statements. Officers followed Mr. Heyward to his home on Seventh Avenue, continually asking him to disarm, but Mr. Heyward didn't comply, police have said.
On Monday, Chattanooga police released an audio recording of the encounter. The recording comes from the microphone of Officer Lauren Bacha, who apparently arrived at the scene after Mr. Heyward already was on the porch of his home.
One neighbor is heard telling officers that Mr. Heyward had been threatening to kill himself all day and had been drinking. Police say that once on the porch at his house, Mr. Heyward pointed his weapon at them, and that's when they used a stun gun. When that didn't work, the officers resorted to deadly force.
The audio plays out as a heated exchange between Mr. Heyward and police, followed by the sound of Mr. Heyward being hit with an electric stun gun and then three volleys of gunshots.
Lt. Noorbergen said those three gunfire bursts indicate officers didn't think the threat posed by Mr. Heyward and his gun was quashed.
"You hear a five-second delay and then more gunfire," Lt. Noorbergen said. "In these situations we do what it takes to stop the threat."
The autopsy report, which is not yet final, details gunshot wounds on nearly every part of Mr. Heyward's 5-foot-9-inch, 180-pound body. Bullet holes were present from his chin to his ankle, but Lt. Noorbergen said it's not clear which of those were entry or exit wounds.
"In one case we know there were three wounds for one gunshot," Lt. Noorbergen said, explaining a bullet entered one part of the body, exited and then entered another part.
But the officers did fire a total of 59 rounds at Mr. Heyward, the lieutenant said. A standard .45-caliber pistol holds nine bullets, but not all officers carry the same weapon, she said.
From the start, Mr. Heyward's family has questioned the use of force. No one was at the Seventh Avenue residence on Monday.
"It was like they had machine guns, all shooting," said James Heyward, shortly after the shooting. "All the officers fired a round. (Alonzo) said he didn't want to hurt anybody, he just wanted to hurt himself."
Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...