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Viewers Question Police Officers' Use Of Deadly Force

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We've gotten lots of questions from our viewers about a police involved shooting specifically wondering if Wichita Police officers were right to use deadly force.

Police say they shot 45 year old Karen Jackson Tuesday night when she came at them with a knife. It happened in the 700 block of North Spruce. Wichita's police chief says Jackson was stabbing herself in the chest and telling officers to shoot her. He says the two officers fired at Jackson when she refused to drop the knife.

Since we first posted this story on our KAKE-TV Facebook page, we have gotten hundreds of comments from viewers, many of them are questions about the officers' actions.

One viewer wrote "why couldn't they have shot her in the leg instead of killing her?”

Another asked, “Am I the only one that thinks Wichita Police need nonlethal weapons? Shooting a woman with a knife seems excessive to me."

We took these questions to the training commander at the Wichita/Sedgiwick County Law Enforcement Training Center where police officers and sheriff's deputies are trained on how to react when attacked by a person armed with a knife.

They ran through a few standard training scenarios for us. In one, it only takes one second for a man with a knife to close a 21 foot gap before Sgt. Osburn can even fire his weapon.

Lt. Mark Pierce says when officers are attacked, they usually don't have time to aim.

"So all the talk about shooting knees and shooting hands, it's very difficult because you don't even have the opportunity to aim the weapon much less aim for a small moving target area,” Lt. Mark Pierce, Sedgwick County Training Commander said.

Pierce says all the law enforcement officers trained at the center are taught to aim towards a person torso.

"It's not shooting to kill we're shooting to stop the threat. Even hit in the leg or the knee or anything like that, it doesn't necessarily stop the threat,” Lt. Pierce said.

Officers are also taught to use deadly force when attacked with a deadly weapon. Not only is a knife considered a lethal weapon, Lt. Pierce says in close combat it can be more dangerous than a gun.

"The body armor that we wear it's not designed to stop knives, it's designed to stop bullets and knives will go right through it without even slowing down,” Lt. Pierce said.

Lt. pierce says it's important for officers to practice in controlled situations so they can protect themselves during a real attack. He also told us tasers are not considered deadly force, so it's not standard procedure for officers to use them when attacked with a deadly weapon; especially in situations where they have seconds to respond.

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