A requiem for #CiaraHoward -- killed by officers who had been warned it's not worth the risk to force arrest of troubled 26yr-old who was a danger to no one. Lethal force kills. Powerful video by @MontyDavisKC https://t.co/QEHQ7o8Gb2— Joe Robertson (@robertsonkcstar) May 6, 2018
Ciara Howard was a mentally-ill woman who wasn’t seen as a threat by her family and friends. The so called crimes committed by the 26-year-old were non-violent ones, mostly because of her addictions and state of mental health.
But the Olathe police killed her last year in August. Latest reports confirm the SWAT teams had told the police officers not to break in her home. She was armed at the time but SWAT maintained breaking in and hurting her over nonviolent offenses wasn’t worth it.
Her crime was of not reporting to the county’s adult residential center for her latest conviction. Two days later someone called 911 told them about the conviction and informed she was at her boyfriends place.
Chilling video footage recorded by a camera worn by the Johnson County deputy, showed a big team of officers getting in the home, moving towards Howard through the small Olathe home over a duration of almost 25 minutes.
The more than 23-hours footage was obtained after The Star filed a lawsuit against Olathe. The revelations made in those videos are disturbing to say the least. The lawsuit was dropped after gaining the videos, but they troubled experts who couldn’t find the police’s action justifiable.
“It’s not worth getting into a shootout and hurting an officer or hurting her over the type of warrants that we have,” a commander on the scene was heard on camera. Neither the Olathe nor Johnson County SWAT teams wanted to get into the house.
However, that isn’t what followed – the officers didn’t call any negotiator to deal with Howard who wasn’t mentally ill. Instead, they called her boyfriend and used him as a shield. This conduct of using a mentally disturbed person’s family member or someone close to them has never been encouraged in crisis negotiations.
Waiting for Howard outside of her home could have been a safer option and she could have been alive, but police officers apparently thought this would get in the way of their credibility.
According to Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, his deputies were at the location as a backup for the Olathe police. But he doesn’t know why the Olathe police officers decided to go in the house. None of the footage obtained captured any conversations between the officers that enabled them to change their minds.
The officers were massively confused before getting inside. “I don’t feel comfortable going in there,” one deputy said. “Obviously the frickin’ last thing I want is to go in there and get someone hurt and have her end up dead in the process.”
“We know she’s in there,” one deputy said. “She’s got warrants — felony warrants — and we’re going to walk away? Something in my head is not computing with this. We’ve got frickin’ 15 of us here,” said another officer.
After waiting for a long time, the patience of the officers was getting thinner and 15 officers then reportedly went inside Howard’s boyfriend’s house behind a ballistic shield, a barking German shepherd and several handguns.
The officers walked carefully through the small house, apparently thinking they could get Howard back out of the location safely.
But that didn’t happen. Howard had access to her boyfriend’s 0.45-caliber handgun.
Police tried to confront Howard, but that didn’t work either. Some 90 minutes in the confrontation, the woman shouted she would attempt suicide.
“I’m not afraid to die!” she shouted. “I’M READY!” she said when her boyfriend tried to talk and get her out of the house.
“Ciara,” the Olathe sergeant shouted repeatedly, “I need you to come out, and I need you to come out now!”
Meanwhile, the officers outside were inquiring why SWAT teams didn’t come at the location. Soon after, they heard gun shots.
The officers inside the house opened her laundry room door to find Howard standing inside with a handgun. She kept shouting at the cops that they weren’t real officers and sometimes aimed the gun in the wrong direction, but sometimes aimed right at the officers.
But she didn’t drop the gun until she was shot.
The panicking officers shot Howard and then called for medical help. It was at this time the Johnson County deputy put on gloves and dragged Howard into the hallway. He is heard pleading, “Breathe. Breathe, Ciara. Breathe.”
Another officer standing over her lifeless body said she was gone.
According to Howard’s mother, her daughter was mentally unfit but she had written letters hoping for a better tomorrow. She shared her plans of marrying her boyfriend, building a house, and finding a new job.
“But she discourages so easily,” said Kathy Arnold.
“There are so many things wrong in this whole thing,” said Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, which has been critically reviewing police shootings in the Kansas City area.
“Going into the house puts them all at risk. If you have the discretion to save a life — yours or theirs — why wouldn’t you? If there is more risk to life if you go in, why go in?
“There is no way this young woman should die and we not give it our all to look at it.”
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Reuters