A 49-year-old man in a wheelchair was fatally shot by police in Mesa, Ariz., during an altercation on Sunday.
The unidentified man was sitting in his wheelchair on the sidewalk around 9:15 a.m. Sunday, when Mesa police stopped him, according to Mesa Police Department spokesman Sgt. Tony Landato.
There was a felony narcotics warrant for the man’s arrest after several run-ins with police.
The three officers confirmed the warrant was still active and then began making arrangements at the jail to accommodate the man and his wheelchair. Landato said that’s when the man began fidgeting with his waistband.
After searching the suspect, officers found two knives in the man’s waistband and a gun holstered around his side. When he realized officers found his gun, he reached for it.
Officers warned him to drop the gun, but he did not comply. One officer, an 8-year veteran of the force, shot the suspect. He died at the scene. No officers were injured.
“To maybe the onlooker, they think, ‘Oh, there’s a guy in a wheelchair,’ but because, for one, you can tend to take their motives and things for granted or see them as handicapped, that doesn’t mean they can’t grab a weapon and fire a gun,” Landato said. “And also because they’re seated and they’re in this wheelchair, they have in close proximities, a lot more areas where they might conceal something.”
The three officers involved were not identified. They are currently on paid administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated.
It is unclear who many shots were fired by police. Debbie Washington, who lives in a nearby apartment complex, told Arizona Republic she was taking out the trash when she hear three quick shots. She saw paramedics attempt to save the man’s life.
Washington has lived in the area just five months, but she said she’s ready to get out.
“I’m ready to go. I’m ready to move,” she said. “It’s not a good area. I’ll just put it that way.”