It’s heartbreaking to read stories of police officers—or any other citizen, for that matter—having to shoot a mentally ill person who may not have even understood the threat they posed, but when someone advances on you and then lunges at you with a knife, what else are you supposed to do?
A man who Norfolk police said had a knife and lunged at officers was shot and killed in a home in the Tidewater Gardens neighborhood Thursday evening.
Relatives identified the man as Willie Demetrius James, 43, and disputed that description of events, saying he had no weapon.
Norfolk police spokeswoman Cpl. Melinda Wray said two officers were investigating a stolen vehicle on Chapel Street on Thursday evening when there was a disturbance at a home nearby. Wray said they entered the home and the man lunged with a knife. The man died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, and the officers have been placed on administrative duty.
James, known as “Meat-Meat,” struggled with mental health issues, according to his son and his ex.
“He was a daddy,” said Keon Wilson, 23. “He was there for me until he had those mental issues.”
Robin Vaughan, who shares a son with James, said his struggles began about 10 years ago: “He started having hallucinations and things like that.”
I feel empathy for the loss the James family and friends are feeling over his loss, and he sounds like he was a good man when he was in his right mind.
The fact remains that a large kitchen knife was recovered at the scene, and a knife is a deadly force weapon capable of inflicting incredible slashing and/or stabbing wounds in a fraction of a second. It is actually more dangerous and harder to defend against at extremely close range (such as an entanglement scenario) than a handgun.
When someone is closing on you with a knife, the correct response is to shoot them before they get close enough to use a blade in a manner that can quickly create fatal wounds by either luck or skill.
While I do not doubt Mr. James’s niece has probably convinced herself to believe what she things she saw, eyewitness recollections are notoriously unreliable and suspect, and the large knife recovered at the scene is a silent witness confirming the Norfolk Police officers version of events.