GRAPHIC: Videos show 3 Phoenix officers shooting at woman carrying gun-like lighter
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- New videos released on Monday shows three Phoenix police officers shooting at a woman with a butane lighter that looked like a gun over a month ago. On May 22, Phoenix Police received a call about 40-year-old Melissa Ann Larue unresponsive inside her car near 35th and Glendale avenues. “There is a running car with a person passed out in it. I knocked on her window and she’s not responding. She was like, not waking up,” the caller said. Two officers arrived and tried to wake up Larue, but she was unresponsive. Body-cam shows one officer knocking on her window when Larue finally wakes up. “Put it in park. Put it in park, now,” one officer says, banging on her window. However, video shows Larue driving off instead.
Larue continued driving before pulling into a nearby apartment complex. Officers tried to pull her over and again ask her to put the car in park. “Turn the vehicle off. Throw the keys outide the window,” one officer said. However, Larue again took off, and that’s when a Phoenix police helicopter started following her. Investigators tracked her near 19th Avenue and Bell Road, and used a grappler to stop her car. Officers began surrounding Larue’s car, telling her to show her hands. “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands, do it now!” one officer says. “He continues yelling at her to turn off the car, but she refuses. “She’s got a gun!” another officer yells before three officers start shooting at Larue. Gunshots ring out as bullets start flying. “She’s still moving. Can you see that gun?” one officer asks. “I can’t see it,” another replies. “I still see something black in her hand.” Another officer tries to use a 40mm launcher to try and break the window, but it doesn’t work.
After unsuccessful attempts to try and break Larue’s window, police used pepper spray to get her out. “Cover me,” one officer says in a second body-cam video. He pulls out the pepper spray and begins spraying it in Larue’s car. Another officer’s body-cam shows police shattering her window to get her out. “Let’s go! Crawl out the window! You need to crawl out the window now! We’ll get you medical help,” one officer yells. Larue begins yelling for help and starts to crawl out. “Stop reaching and crawl out!” the officer yells. “I can’t see, help me!” she yells. Several officers pull Larue off the window as she screams for help. She was taken to the hospital and later released. Officers found an object that looked like a handgun, but later discovered it was a butane lighter.
Two officers involved in the shooting are assigned to the Tactical Support Bureau and have been with the department for 17 years apiece. The third officer is with South Mountain Precinct and has served for five years. Larue is facing charges, including aggravated assault. No officers were hurt.
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