NASHVILLE — A 16-year-old robbery suspect was shot and killed by police in Nashville when he opened fire on officers who tried to use a stun gun to subdue him, authorities said.
Xavier McDonald had recently been released from the Woodland Hills Youth Detention Center and before the shooting he had told an officer at the scene that he didn't want to go back, police spokesman Don Aaron told a news conference Monday.
The Woodland Hills facility in Nashville experienced two mass breakouts earlier this year and has a long history of violence, allegations of sexual abuse and previous efforts to break out.
One officer was seriously wounded in Sunday evening's shooting, which began with a report of a robbery in south Nashville.
Sgt. Michelle Jones knew some of the people in a nearby apartment where police believed the robbers had fled, Aaron said. The officers were given permission to enter and found the victim's debit card inside.
McDonald had locked himself in a bathroom. Jones spoke to him and at one point he came out. Jones thought he was going to surrender, Aaron said. But when Jones went to pat him down, she felt the gun. An officer tried to stun McDonald, but for unknown reasons, it didn't work. That's when police say McDonald opened fire, hitting officer John Downs, 42, in the leg.
Four other officers shot back, killing McDonald. They have been put on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated, which is routine.
Downs was in stable condition at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Police Chief Steve Anderson, who also spoke at the Monday afternoon news conference, said Downs had undergone one surgery and will need several more. Anderson said doctors do not know whether Downs will be able to walk again and his future in policing remains uncertain.
Police said McDonald was listed as a runaway at the time of the shooting. His mother had reported scuffling with him over a box of bullets on Dec. 7. She told police he was carrying a gun in his waistband and threatened to shoot her.
McDonald is black and the injured officer is white. Recent police killings involving white officers and black suspects have made national headlines and prompted widespread protests regarding police brutality, though the suspects in those cases were unarmed.
So far, it appeared the killing of McDonald, who was armed and shot an officer, was not generating the same outrage.
"What happened here is starkly different than what happened in Missouri, and what happened in New York," Aaron said Monday.
The Rev. James Thomas, a pastor at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church and one of a group of black church leaders who meet Chief Anderson every month, expressed a similar sentiment.
"We understand this young man shot a policeman," Thomas said in a telephone interview. "Someone talked to the young man's mother and she said he wanted to kill her too."
Anderson said at the news conference that McDonald's mother has sent her condolences to the family of officer Downs.
Anderson said the shooting involved "multiple tragedies," including that of a young man who "lost his way."