by Max Brantley
UPDATE: Police say an investigation continues, but comments so far are supportive of the officers' actions.
The dead man was identified as Eugene Ellison, 67, who lived in Apt. 213 of the apartment complex. Officers are Donna Lesher and Detective Tabitha McCrillis. Lesher has been on the force for 16 years. McCrillis has been on the force for five years. Both began working in the apartment complex this year. It has been the source of many police calls — more than 100 calls this year including a homicide. The new owner hired police as private security. They have been placed on administrative leave while police investigate. The file will go to the prosecutor's office for review.
EVENING UPDATE: Checking a report that Ellison was a father of police officers. UPDATE: He was father of current Little Rock narcotics officer and another son recently left the force for a job in Texas.
Lt. Terry Hastings gave an account similar to early reports. The officers saw an open door of the apartment Thursday night and went inside, where they found Ellison sitting in a living room in disarray. He attacked, the officers said. No reason was given. Perhaps he was surprised at the intruders and confused about their identity. They pulled their batons and tried to subdue him with blows. That didn't work, so he was sprayed twice with pepper spray. He continued to battle.
Hastings said Ellison managed to take the baton from one officer and began using it as a weapon. They called for help. A third policeman arrived, who arrived with siren blaring just in time to witness the shooting from outside on the balcony. Ellison had by then grabbed a heavy wooden cane. He was beating both officers, who were standing side by side, when he was shot. Lesher fired two shots that struck Ellison in the chest.
"Even though the gentleman was 67 years old, he was in very good shape," Hastings said. He was 6 feet 1 and weighed more than 200 pounds. Asked why officers didn't shoot him in the leg or some other disabling, but not lethal manner, Hastings replied: "We train our officers to take the threat out."
Hastings said only supervisors carry Tasers, which stun suspects with an electrical shock. He said the episode will prompt a review into whether all officers should carry them.
Hastings said Ellison was believed to have emotional problems. He turned up in police records 18 years ago. In 1992, he was charged with second-degree battery and fleeing.
— David Koon
Hastings' written report follows:
On 12-09-10 Officers D. Lesher and T. McCrillis were working off duty, in uniform, at 6200 Colonel Glenn the Big Country Chateau when they observed an open apartment door (#213) on the second level of the apartments. These officers knocked on the door, identified themselves, and observed a large frame black male inside the apartment. Officers stated that the suspect was trembling and when told by officers that they saw the door open and just wanted to check on his welfare, the suspect became extremely violent and charged the officers attacking
them. The officers were able to call for help on their police radio as the suspect had one officer in a choke hold and grabbed the other officer's baton from her hands and was attempting to use it on the officers before Officer McCrillis was able to get it away from him.
Officers, who were in the area, responded to the scene, but by the time these officers made it to the second floor, the suspect had separated himself from the officers and grabbed a heavy wood walking cane and charged at the officers. Officer Lesher repeatedly ordered Mr. Ellison to drop his cane as he advanced swinging the cane and was forced to fire her City issued weapon to stop him.
MEMS was notified and responded to the scene. They transported Mr. Ellison to UAMS where he died from his injuries. The officers received minor injuries and were treated at Baptist Hospital and released. The officers are on administrative leave while two investigations are being conducted.
Officer Donna Lesher is a Patrol Officer assigned to the Southwest Patrol. She joined the department on May 15, 1994. Detective Tabitha McCrillis is a Juvenile Detective. She joined the department on March 4, 2005.