Police Commissioner William B. Evans says two officers had “no choice” but to shoot a mentally ill man who he said was waving a steak knife in his family’s South End brownstone early Sunday morning -- an account vehemently disputed by the man's mother.
“It was seconds here. Their lives were in danger. A knife was being thrust at them. This was closer quarters inside an apartment,” Evans said. “This threat was very real. I feel for the mother, I know she’s distraught. We grieve for her, but they left us no choice.”
Evans declined to release the man’s name. Friends and neighbors identified him as Terrence Coleman, 31. His mother told the Boston Globe that her son was unarmed when he was shot.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office is investigating. Evans told the Boston Herald his officers, who were not wearing body cameras, will be placed on administrative leave pending a preliminary finding on whether their actions were justified.
Evans said Coleman’s mother called 911, saying her paranoid-schizophrenic son “was awake for the last 24 hours, acting irrational.”
Because it was a medical call, Evans said, “EMS tried to go in and they were dealing with the whole issue themselves. We were still outside and at some point the individual pulled out a large knife and started to go at the EMS personnel, attacking them, coming at them with the knife. They were fighting him off. Our officers outside heard the commotion. They went in. They tried to subdue the individual, also, without using force, but he was able to keep his arm free and he started to come at the officers. At that point, it left them no choice. They fired.
A law enforcement source said Coleman threatened to harm both himself and his mother with knives in 2006, and was removed from the home by police and EMS.