Durham News

Durham police: Man fatally shot by officers was pointing air gun at one of them

Durham police officers learned after the shooting that La’Vante Biggs’ gun was a replica Airsoft air gun, which closely resembled a real gun.
Durham police officers learned after the shooting that La’Vante Biggs’ gun was a replica Airsoft air gun, which closely resembled a real gun. Durham Police Department

A man killed by Durham police last week was pointing an air gun that looked like a real gun at an officer when he was fatally shot, according to a report released by the police department on Thursday.

La’Vante Biggs, 21, called 911 at 10:27 a.m. Saturday saying he wanted to make a statement. “I love everybody,” he told the dispatcher. He then said, “It’s not nobody’s fault,” said he was at 1702 Angier Ave. and hung up.

When a 911 dispatcher called back, Biggs’ mother, Shanika Biggs, said she didn’t know what was happening. She called 911 back at 10:31 a.m. to say her son was sitting on the porch pointing a gun at his head, the report said. She described it as “a big black gun.”

Biggs’ mother can be heard on the call pleading with her son not to shoot himself because people love him and have his back. She begs him to put down the gun. She later told investigators her son had been depressed about a recent breakup and not seeing his children.

Chief’s report

This is what the report from Chief Jose Lopez says happened next:

The first officer on the scene, K.L. Gregory, reported a man holding a gun to his neck/throat.

Biggs paced around the yard and switched the gun back and forth from his right hand to his left hand. He said “I’m sorry” several times and cried several times, according to officers.

Officers reported that he pointed the gun toward the ground and to the side of his head. He also put the gun in his mouth at least once. He often was seen holding the gun by the trigger guard.

At one point officers asked Biggs’ mother if the gun was real, and she told them, “Yes, it is real.”

Hostage negotiator Officer T. Janifer asked him several times to drop the gun and talk to her. He spoke to her for several minutes, but then stopped responding.

After at least 50 minutes of negotiations, Biggs then took several steps toward the street while raising his right hand in which he held the gun. Officers say Biggs was pointing the gun at Gregory. Officers repeatedly told Biggs to stop and drop the gun, but Biggs continued to advance, according to the officers.

Four officers – Officers R.A. Armstrong, L.A. Harvey, A.A. Cisternas and J.J. Holmes – fired12 shots from three patrol rifles and one shotgun. The closest officer was approximately 25 yards from Biggs.

Biggs was hit several times and collapsed on the ground. Officers called for EMS units, which were staged a block away, and prepared to perform CPR. EMS units arrived almost immediately and took Biggs to Duke Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

It was only upon collecting evidence that officers learned that Biggs’ gun was a replica Airsoft air gun, which closely resembled a real gun, according to the report. Air guns typically used compressed air to fire a projectile such as a BB or a plastic pellet.

Investigators interviewed several witnesses who told them that several people, including officers, tried to get Biggs to put down the gun, but he did not comply.

Video sought

No in-car camera video was available due to the positions of the police vehicles, according to the report. Police ask anyone who may have recorded the incident to come forward and share that video.

Harvey joined the Durham Police Department in 2007, and Cisternas joined the department in 2011. Armstrong and Holmes joined the department in 2012. All four will be assigned to administrative duties pending the outcomes of the investigations, which is standard procedure.

The Durham Police Department’s Professional Standards Division is investigating to ensure that all departmental policies and procedures were followed.

The police department’s homicide unit also is investigating the incident.

The night before the shooting, La’Vante Biggs had damaged his ex-girlfriend’s tires and was arrested and charged with injury to property. In an interview, Shanika Biggs said she bailed him out Saturday morning and took him by his house to pick up clothes. Shanika Biggs said her son, a father of two, had been in a motorcycle accident and had surgery last month.

Court records indicate La’Vante Biggs had been convicted of possession of weapons on campus and multiple counts of indecent liberties with a minor.

“He may have been dealing with some demons from his past,” his mother said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges