A Burke man who may have been suicidal was shot and killed by police in the early morning hours of Oct. 31 after he turned his weapon on the officers, according to a police press release.
Fairfax County Police officers responded around 4:30 a.m. to a report of a suicidal man standing outside of his home on the 9800 block of Natick Road. The man, later identified as Edward Connor, 71, was spotted by responding officers at the scene getting into a car and driving away.
The officers followed Connor as he made a three-mile drive to a church on the 5100 block of Woodland Way in Annandale, where he stopped, according to the release. Police approaching the vehicle to begin negotiations noticed that the man had a handgun, it added.
At some point during negotiations, Connor pointed the weapon at one of the officers. That officer responded by firing his weapon once, killing Connor, according to the release. None of the officers were injured.
Connor was the third person killed in the line of duty this year by Fairfax County Police, according to police records. The officer involved in the shooting was placed on routine administrative leave until an investigation is completed.
POLICE HAVE not yet been able to determine if Connor’s death was a case of "suicide by cop," according to Public Information Officer 4th Class Camille Neville, spokesperson for Fairfax County Police Department.
"At that point when the officer felt threatened, he made a decision to use his weapon," said Neville. "We were called to investigate an individual who may have been suicidal but whether or not that was his intention, we just don’t know."
Situations that may require officers to use deadly force are never easy to navigate even after undergoing extensive and ongoing training, Neville added.
"If someone is using or threatening to use deadly force, officers must respond with deadly force," she said. "People may not be thinking rationally, they may be very upset, but all you can do is protect the people around you and yourself."
WHILE IT HAS not yet been determined if Connor’s death was a case of "suicide by cop" — a method of suicide performed by provoking police officers into using deadly force — the incident draws attention to the victims of this phenomena, said Rebecca Stincelli in a phone interview. Stincelli is a former Sacramento, Calif. law enforcement instructor and author of the book, "Suicide by Cop: Victims from Both Sides of the Badge."
According to a 1998 medical study of Los Angeles officer-involved shootings cited by Stincelli, as many as 11 percent are cases of suicide.
"The only thing that prepares an officer for that kind of a situation is advanced law enforcement training, and even then it’s impossible to fully prepare for," Stincelli said. "When a police officer is called to a scene for a man with a gun, that’s what they’re there for, it’s a direct threat to the officer."
The aftermath of such a shooting is the most difficult part, both for the officer involved in the incident and the family and friends of the victim, she added. Those who have been affected by one of these incidents typically should search out peer support and therapy from doctors with experience in this issue, according to Stincelli.
"When you look at this situation, both sides are victims," she said. "And that’s exactly what makes this such a difficult situation for anyone to have to live with."