Chilling surveillance video released a week after the police shooting of a 17-year-old girl in North Texas shows her entering the police department lobby, pulling a knife and facing off against three officers before she is tased and shot.
The Texas Rangers, part of the state Department of Public Safety, are investigating the fatal shooting of Kristiana Coignard on Jan. 22 in Longview, about 130 miles east of Dallas, and the officers involved remained on paid leave, department spokeswoman Kristie Brian said Thursday.
Longview Police Chief Don Dingler defended the officers’ actions amid increased scrutiny surrounding law enforcement’s use of deadly force in other cases, including high-profile shootings in Cleveland, New York, Albuquerque and Ferguson, Mo.
The backlash against the department after the shooting included a cyberattack by those claiming to be part of the online activist group Anonymous, which briefly shut down the Longview city website Jan. 24 and posted a critical video on YouTube. Critics of the shooting have used social media to call for a protest Feb. 7 outside the Longview Police Department.
Brian told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that the hackers took down the website but did not enter it. “They did attempt to get into our system, but they were not successful,” she said, adding that “nobody’s information was compromised.”
Dingler released video of the shooting Wednesday. At a press briefing that day, Brian played the video in slow motion, without sound, and narrated it.
In the video, Coignard can be seen entering the police department lobby at 6:28 p.m., a pale figure with a backpack who approached a phone on the wall.
“That’s the phone she did pick up to ask for an officer,” Brian said.
Coignard refused to tell the police dispatcher on the phone what she needed, so the dispatcher sent Officer Glenn Derr to the lobby, Brian said.
“Officer Derr comes in. He’s going to attempt to talk to her,” Brian said.
That’s when Coignard appeared to hold up her palm.
“She has ‘I have a gun’ written on her hand,” Brian said.
Derr began to grapple with the teen.
“She says she has a gun, he has to secure her at that point,” Brian said.
The officer can be seen in the video forcing Coignard down onto a bench, then the ground. She kept struggling and eventually reached for the 8-inch knife, Brian said. That’s when the officer backed off, she said.
“He sees the weapon,” Brian said. “She’s starting to try to maneuver to get that weapon — it was in her waistband.”
A second officer can then be seen on video entering the lobby, Officer Gene Duffie, then a third, Officer Grace Bagley. Moments later, Coignard charged Derr.
Duffie fired his Taser at the teen “to no effect” the police chief said, then Derr fired three times and Bagley fired twice. Coignard was struck four times.
“Those officers had to make life-or-death decisions in just a split second,” Brian said as the video ended.
All three officers are patrolmen, the chief said, with varying levels of experience. Derr has served with the department for a year, while Bagley have served four years and Duffie 19 years.
Dingler defended the way all three handled the incident.
“What they did is what they were trained to do,” the chief said. “You’ll see from the video that the time was a factor. There was no time for the officers to use other means.”
Once the police investigation concludes, the case will be referred to the district attorney, he said.
Brian said it was not clear how Coignard traveled to the police department. Video cameras outside show her appearing out of the darkness.
Coignard had apparently been staying with an aunt in Longview, Heather Robertson, who did not return calls or email Thursday.
Robertson previously told the political blog ThinkProgress that her niece had bipolar disorder, had attempted suicide twice but was not violent toward others and that the incident was a “cry for help.”