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Man shot by University City police officer was distraught over recent stroke, wanted 'suicide by cop'

Man shot by University City police officer was distraught over recent stroke, wanted 'suicide by cop'

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Police investigate shooting scene

Police investigate a shooting scene at a home along the 1500 block of North Hanley Road on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Photo by Laurie Skrivan,

UPDATED at 11:20 a.m. with additional details from man’s wife

UNIVERSITY CITY • A veteran who recently suffered a stroke and was distraught over his health pointed a shotgun at University City police officers early Tuesday before police shot and critically wounded him, authorities say.

The man’s wife told the Post-Dispatch, “He was just hurting so bad.”

The confrontation was about 6 a.m. Tuesday at the man’s home, in the 1500 block of North Hanley Road. Officers had been on the porch, yelling into the home for him to surrender, when he came from his bedroom and pointed the shotgun at police, said Capt. Fredrick Lemons of the University City Police Department.

Police say the man, 61, had recently had a stroke and was having a difficult time.

• UPDATE: James Hunn died six days after he was shot

“It seems that he was dealing with some type of crisis, and the officers tried to assist him,” Lemons said. “At that point he realized he wanted to die by ‘suicide by cop.’”

A University City police officer fired three shots at the man. He was struck in the leg and chest. He was taken to a hospital, where police say he was in critical but stable condition.

No police officers were hurt, Lemons said.

The man’s wife, who has been detailing her husband’s health conditions in recent weeks on Facebook, called police early Tuesday to say he was making threatening statements and had a weapon.

She told the Post-Dispatch in a brief phone interview that her husband had recently fallen at St. Louis University Hospital, too, and was in a lot of pain. She said they had been married for 36 years. Her husband was an Army veteran, she said.

As for the theory by police that he wanted “suicide by cop,” the wife said: “It could be. He was just hurting so bad.”

Police arrived after getting her call to 911 about 6 a.m. Tuesday. Officers talked to the woman and removed her from the home.

Lemons said the officers didn’t go inside the home; instead they were on the porch “yelling into the home to get him to talk back.”

The man told police “that he wanted to kill himself or make them kill him,” Lemons said.

Police tried to calm him down, but he kept making threats, police said. Officers began to retreat from the porch. But the man left a bedroom holding what police described as a long gun.

The man put the gun into his mouth, Lemons said, then took it out of his mouth and told police, “You are going to have to kill me.”

The man pointed the weapon at officers, Lemons said.

A 26-year-old University City police officer with two years’ experience fired three shots at the man, striking him twice.

The officer was put on administrative leave, as is protocol in police-involved shootings. Police did not release the officer’s name.

Lemons said University City police officers do not use body cameras so the events were not recorded.

Lemons said the man suffered from several medical conditions.

Five hours before the shooting Tuesday, about 1 a.m., police were at his home as paramedics loaded him into an ambulance and took him to the VA Hospital, Lemons said.

However, the man was back at home within hours, Lemons said.

The man’s wife on her Facebook page detailed the man’s struggle in recent weeks. In a March 11 post, she asked her followers to keep her husband in their prayers. She posted a photo of him on a stretcher near an ambulance. Three days later, she wrote: Keep him in prayer. “I’m scared, they just brought him here from VA Hospital. They think he’s had a stroke.”

Then, just after midnight Sunday, she said in a post that the stroke had “damaged the entire back of his brain.” She said the plan was to have him taken to a rehab facility.

“It’s going to be a long recovery process,” she wrote. “Please keep him in your prayers. Thanks.”

Hours after the shooting, the man’s wife told a reporter that she didn’t know how he was doing. She said she had gone to the wrong hospital and finally ended up at the right one, where he was still in surgery.

Officer-involved shootings in the St. Louis area during 2019

These are the incidents of police officer shootings in the St. Louis area during 2019.

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