Durham police were told a man was suicidal several hours before they say he pointed a gun at officers Wednesday night and was fatally shot.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had received reports Shaun Jeffery Christy, 37, was threatening to harm his domestic partner and threatening suicide, said Chief Deputy Jamie Sykes of the Sheriff’s Office..
“It was an all-day, ongoing matter — our trying to locate and reach Christy — from sometime earlier in the day, up until, what happened,” said Capt. Tim Horne, of the Sheriff’s Office.
Two Durham police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in an officer-involved incident. Cpl. B.M. Glover joined the Durham Police Department in January 2006 and Officer G.F. Paschall joined the department in February 2015.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
According to police spokesman Wil Glenn, officers went to the New Hope Commons shopping center off U.S. 15-501 after the Sheriff’s Office told them a suicidal and armed man, driving a red pickup truck, might be in the area.
Throughout most of Wednesday, Horne said, Christy had called people in his personal life but would not reveal his exact location.
“Everybody who talked to him gave him advice” and tried to calm him down, Horne said. “He would not comply — would not listen.”
Cell phone location
Deputies had both an involuntary psychiatric commitment order and a domestic violence protection order for Christy, Horne said. Neither order was served because they could not find him.
Eventually, the Sheriff’s Office was able to locate Christy by tracking his cell phone’s location.
“In a situation, in which life and death are on the line, law enforcement can be granted an emergency phone ping — locating someone via GPS,” Horne said. “It doesn’t give you their exact location, but does provide a general area.”
Deputies in Orange County then told Durham police that Christy was in the New Hope Commons area.
Police searched for his red truck for about 90 minutes, Glenn said, finding him shortly before 8:15 p.m. in a parking lot where they tried to speak to him.
“Officers indicated that the man displayed a handgun and pointed it at them, which caused the officers to fire their weapons,” Glenn wrote.
Officers performed CPR, and the Christy was taken to a local hospital, where he died, police said in a news release.
Christy was convicted in 2010 of three felony charges stemming from offenses committed in 2007. He was incarcerated from May 26, 2011, to Nov. 10, 2011, for possession with intent to sell a controlled substance, selling a controlled substance and maintaining a place for the use of a controlled substance.
Christy was also convicted of possession with intent to sell or distribute a counterfeit controlled substance in 2010 in connection with a 2006 incident.
Previous fatal shootings
Christy’s death marks the third time since 2013 that Durham police have fatally shot a man who was reported to be appeared to be suicidal.
In 2015, La’Vante Trevon Biggs was fatally shot by police after his mother called 911 concerned about him. Police said Biggs was suicidal and holding a weapon when they responded to the call in the 1700 block of Angier Avenue.
In 2013, Derek Walker was fatally shot after he pointed a gun at officers and at himself during a downtown standoff at CCB Plaza on Corcoran Street. It was reported that Walker was upset about losing custody of his son.
After Biggs’ death, Durham City Council member Jillian Johnson said the Police Department needed to explore other responses to such situations with mental health professionals and non-lethal weapons. Council member Charlie Reece said more should be done to avoid killing people in these situations.
Police Chief C.J. Davis was not with the department when the prior incidents happened.
In the statement Wednesday night she said: “We would like to express our concern and condolences to everyone involved. Any loss of life is always a tragic event.”
Mental health training
Durham police go through three levels of mental health training, said police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.
All recruits receive 24 hours of mental health/crisis intervention training (CIT) as part of their Basic Law Enforcement Training.
Every sworn officer also receives eight hours of intensive mental health first aid training.
The Police Department also offers a 40-hour advanced CIT training program for officers and other first responders. Glover went through the advanced training, Michael said.
More than 40 percent of Durham’s patrol officers have received this advanced CIT training, which is above the 20 percent national standard, Michaels said.
Following standard procedure for officer-involved shootings,Wednesday’s shooting is being investigated by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and the Police Department’s Professional Standards Division.