SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A mentally ill teenager killed by police in an East Texas police station last month had gone there believing authorities would hospitalize her and was shot after officers had several opportunities to subdue her, the teen’s parents said Monday.
Erik Coignard said police surveillance video shows that his 17-year-old daughter, Kristiana Coignard, did not need to be shot to death in the lobby of a Longview police station. He pointed to moments where his daughter had been pinned by an officer who later released her, allowing the teenager to pull a butcher knife and lunge after the officer.
“When I watch the video,” he said, “I can see multiple opportunities when she was under control. She was motionless on several occasions.”
When police released the video in January, Police Chief Don Dingler had said it showed the officers were justified in shooting the girl.
The shooting has garnered attention amid increased scrutiny surrounding law enforcement’s use of deadly force. Protesters rallied in Longview on Saturday.
During news conference Monday in San Antonio, Coignard and his wife, Elizabeth Canales-Coignard, described Kristiana as a smart, loving person who was looking forward the future. She was seeing a counselor and on medication at the time of the shooting and had packed a backpack before entering the police station in anticipation of being sent to a hospital.
Coignard and his attorney, Tim Maloney, said that they are seeking more information, including audiotape of the Jan. 22 shooting, but aren’t yet moving ahead with litigation. They also want to know whether the three police officers involved were trained to handle people with mental health issues, and why the officer who had Kristiana nearly subdued could not place handcuffs on her.
Dingler has said the officer, Glenn Derr, broke away when he saw Kristiana reach for a butcher knife in her waistband. The videotape showed Derr had her on the ground at the time. After Derr jumps back, two other officers arrive before the teen charges at Derr.
Police say Officer Gene Duffie fired his Taser, which did not bring Kristiana down, then Derr and Officer Grace Bagley quickly followed with gunshots.
“Police officers are duty bound to protect themselves, their colleagues and the public any time they are faced with a threat involving deadly force,” said John Moritz, a spokesman for Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, a statewide law enforcement union that represents about 20,000 officers.
Derr and Bagley remain on paid leave while the Texas Rangers complete their investigation.
Coignard said his daughter was staying with relatives in Longview, about 360 miles northeast of San Antonio, when she arrived at the police station and held up a hand onto which she’d scrawled: “I have a gun.” Coignard chose not to specify what mental illness his daughter had, though an aunt previously told the liberal political blog ThinkProgress that her niece had bipolar disorder and had twice attempted suicide.
“Kristiana shouldn’t have died,” Coignard said, “and her death should not be in vain,”
Associated Press writer David Warren contributed to this report from Dallas.