Police Officer Kills Berkeley Woman

From Bay City News and news reports
Friday February 15, 2008
A shrine has been set up on the Ward Street porch where Anita Gay was shot and killed by a Berkeley police officer.
By Mike O'Malley
A shrine has been set up on the Ward Street porch where Anita Gay was shot and killed by a Berkeley police officer.

Posted Mon. Feb 18, 2008--An officer responding to reports of a domestic disturbance at a south Berkeley apartment building Saturday night used deadly force on a woman who allegedly confronted the officer with a knife, according to the Berkeley Police Department. 

The Alameda County coroner's bureau identified her on Sunday as 51-year-old Berkeley resident Anita Gay.  

Police first responded at about 6:40 p.m. to the apartment building in the 1700 block of Ward Street on a domestic disturbance call reporting that someone in the area was breaking windows, the Police Department reported. 

Police responded to the apartment building a second time at about 8 p.m., when a woman confronted an officer with a knife, the department reported. 

The officer fired his weapon in defense of another person and of himself, according to the Police Department. 

The woman died a short time later, police reported. 

The officer involved in the shooting is a five-year veteran and has been placed on administrative leave, according to the department, which did not officially release his name to the press. He has been identified in a news report quoting an unnamed police source as Rashawn Cummings, formerly with the Berkeley Police Department’s drug task force. 

An investigation into the incident is ongoing, police reported. 

Before she was shot and killed by a Berkeley police officer Saturday night, the 51-year-old woman raised a large kitchen-style knife at two of her daughters, endangering their lives, Berkeley police public information officer Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said on Monday. 

"One can close a gap in seconds with a knife," Kusmiss said. 

When the officer arrived for the second time, Kusmiss said, he found Anita Gay standing on a porch landing of the apartment holding a large kitchen-style knife. The officer brandished a gun and tried to convince Gay to drop the knife. 

Two of Gay's daughters came out of the apartment door onto the landing. That's when Gay allegedly turned her attention from the officer and raised her knife at her daughters, who were standing a "few feet away," Kusmiss said. 

The officer then discharged his firearm at least two times at Gay, according to Kusmiss. 

Gay died at the scene. 

Kusmiss said given the proximity of the suspect and her family members "the officer felt the two women's lives were imminently in danger." 

Police believe Gay was responsible for the broken windows, Kusmiss said, however it was not immediately clear what had prompted the domestic dispute. 

Family members told police Gay may have been under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the incident. 

Neighbors, in an interview reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, said that they had witnessed the exchange and disputed the police account, saying that they did not believe the woman was threatening the officer when she was shot. 

Kusmiss said that Gay had spent time at the residence but could not confirm whether she lived in the apartment or her exact relation to the two women whom she allegedly threatened with the knife. 

"We think it's important to share that no officer wants to be in the position to use deadly force, and yet all officers are trained to," said Kusmiss. 

The last officer-involved shooting in Berkeley was in July 2003 when a Berkeley officer and a couple of Oakland officers shot and killed a bank robbery suspect at a Wells Fargo bank branch. 

The recent case remains under investigation by Berkeley police homicide detectives and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. The officer has been placed on administrative leave. 

The porch where Gay was shot has been turned into a memorial shrine with candles, flowers and stuffed animals.