|Updated: 7/17/2012 6:43 pm
||Published: 7/16/2012 10:08 pm
The Tulsa Police Department has identified the officer involved in a fatal shooting on Monday night.
The department says Officer Warren Bigelow, 40, shot and killed Manuel Sanchez, 32. Investigators say Manuel Sanchez, a suspect in a series of robberies around that neighborhood, threatened officers with a gun just before ten. Police say Officer Warren Bigelow was forced to fire at Sanchez. Sanchez was shot in the abdomen, rushed to the hospital, and later died.
Bigelow has been with the department for seven years, but is now on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.
Police say Sanchez got out of a car at the Taco Mayor on South Utica near 4th Street, pointed a gun at a man and told him to get out of his car. The man drove away and called 911. Police say Sanchez then tried the same thing with a woman, but for some reason got spooked and ran off. Soon after, police say Sanchez pointed the gun at a group of people and told them to hand over their car keys. When the group said none of them had car keys he took off again.
A short time later Officer Bigelow found Sanchez near a house in the 400 block of South Xanthus. He chased Sanchez behind a house, and cornered him in a back yard in front of a locked gate. When Sanchez turned around still holding the gun, that's when Bigelow shot him.
The people who live in that house were terrified by all the commotion in their yard.
"All we hear is the back door gate, like some loud noise," Melissa Gonzalez said. "I come out and look through the window, and I just see cops."
"I was like 'oh my God! What's happening behind my house?'"
It all happened just a few feet from where Gonzalez and her parents were watching tv.
"These situations are not something we take lightly," Officer Leland Ashley, Tulsa Police Department, said. "There's never a time an officer gets up to go to work and says 'you know, I want to get into a shootout today.'"
No matter how much training officers go through, Ashley said it's always a difficult decision to pull the trigger.
"You only have maybe a half second to make that decision whether to pull your trigger or not," he said. "And, ultimately, there is a probability if you do not that you might be the one injured or suffering from a gunshot wound."
This was the fifth officer-involved shooting the Tulsa Police Department has dealt with in 2012. Three of them ended with the suspect dying.
"We've seen that individuals are now more prepared to challenge officers, or more prepared to produce a gun, and things like that," Ashley said. "Is that the way our society is going? I don't know."
In the end, Ashley said it's the suspect who decides whether a situation has to become violent or deadly, not the officer. Any time they show a weapon while ignoring officers' commands to drop it, Ashley said they are forcing the officer to take drastic measures.
"It's just crazy," Gonzalez said. "People don't think officers are going to do something like that. So, just until they see it and believe it [they will keep doing it]."
Tulsa police say a man matching Sanchez' description in a car matching the description of the one Sanchez arrived at Taco Mayo in were involved in two other attempted car-jackings about half an hour earlier in Sapulpa. Sapulpa police confirmed the descriptions were the same, but investigators said they were still working to confirm that Sanchez was, in fact, the man who committed all five crimes.