Army sergeant from Chicago fatally shot by Tacoma police
A U.S. Army medic from Chicago who had been deployed twice to Iraq was fatally shot by Tacoma, Wash., police who were responding to a domestic violence call on Friday.
Sgt. Prince Gavin, originally of Chicago, had been stationed at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord but was in the process of being transferred to Fort Carson, Colo., at the time of his death, said his mother LaSandra Lartheridge. He was to report to Fort Carson on Sept. 10, said his mother.
Gavin was in the process of moving when police received a domestic violence call and found him with a gun when they arrived, said Lartheridge. His mother said Gavin was licensed to have and carry weapons and kept them for protection.
"The thing that I heard was that he and his ex-girlfriend got into it and he went to her house, the police were there and they said something to him," said Lartheridge.
She said police shot twice, hitting him once in the chest.
"I know nothing except that my son was killed. I do know that my son would not have pointed the gun at a police officer," said Lartheridge. "I want justice for my son because my son was a good person. (The officer) did not have to be so aggressive and kill my son."
Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell told the News Tribune Friday that when police arrived, an officer spotted Gavin getting out of a truck. Gavin spotted the officer and ran toward the house, the chief said. This led to a confrontation between the officer and Gavin that resulted in the officer firing his service weapon, according to the News Tribune. The paper said investigators later found a .45-caliber handgun by Gavin’s body, although it was unclear whether he had pointed the gun at the officer.
"My understanding was (the gun) was in his hand when he got out of his truck and ran toward the house," Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum told the News Tribune.
His mother said that Gavin had signed up with the Army eight years ago while living with a relative on the West Side of Chicago. Gavin was a Chicago native and moved with his mother to Texas in 1995 but returned to Chicago in 2001, his mother said.
He told his mother he joined the military to seek adventure and was considering going to nursing school after his army career. In addition to Iraq, he had been stationed in South Korea.
"He was an adventurous kid and wanted to get out there and see things and he said that was the way he could do it, to go to the military," said his mother. "He enjoyed it. He liked being a medic."
She said her son didn't want to speak about what he had seen in combat but she could tell that it had affected him, especially after his last deployment. He has a 3-year-old daughter, Alyssa, with a woman also in the military.
"His girlfriend said he was different (when he returned), of course he was different," said his mother. "He was a person that stayed to himself, he was not a confrontational person. He was not aggressive."
The police officer, who has been on the force for about five years, is on paid administrative leave – standard procedure when an officer uses deadly force on the job – and will be interviewed by investigators this week, police told the News Tribune.
The police chief said initial indications were that the officer acted reasonably and within department guidelines for using deadly force. It’s the second time the officer has been involved in a shooting, according to the News Tribune.
But Gavin's mother, who is planning her son's funeral in Chicago, disputes the police account.
"I don't believe in my heart that my son pointed the gun at the police, come on, he's in the military he knows they'll shoot," said Lartheridge.