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Woman's Killing Defended by Police

January 22, 2002|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Long Beach Police Department on Monday defended its fatal shooting of a 57-year-old woman who allegedly had left a market without paying for groceries, then raised an 8-inch knife at police.

The shooting occurred Saturday morning after officers followed the woman from the corner of 5th Street and Pine Avenue for "an entire city block," a department spokesman said.

Officers repeatedly ordered the woman to stop and to drop the knife as they followed her toward the Pine Avenue restaurant district.

The woman, identified as Marcella Byrd, a resident of a downtown seniors apartment complex, was shot first with pellet-filled miniature bean bags, which the department calls "less lethals."

But the bean bags, fired after officers repeatedly demanded that she drop the knife and called in a supervisor, did not deter Byrd, who weighed about 300 pounds, said Sgt. Steve Filipini, a department spokesman.

"Normal folks, the reasonable person, does not display a knife when law enforcement arrives at the scene," Filipini said. The projectile bean bags "seemed to have little impact, they just made her more infuriated," he said.

When Byrd raised the knife up in a throwing position, "officers, fearing for their safety, were forced to shoot the woman with their duty weapons. She was struck several times in the torso," according to a department statement.

Officers treated her immediately and Long Beach Fire Department paramedics took her to a local hospital, where she died about 3 p.m.

The shooting is under investigation by the Los Angeles County coroner's office, the district attorney's office and the Long Beach Police Department, as is routine with officer-involved shootings.

Byrd, who was African American, is the second knife-wielding woman since June to be shot by Long Beach officers.

On June 20, officers called to a domestic fight at the home of an agitated Glenda Lee Reymer, 52, fired projectiles at her as she raised a knife, department officials said.

Blunt force to the chest, the coroner said, killed the 100-pound woman, whose boyfriend said he warned police that she had been physically and mentally troubled.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, officers were called to Top Value Market on Pacific Avenue, where Byrd allegedly struggled with the manager. When he saw her knife, police said, he backed off and officers located her minutes later.

Royce Esters, president of the National Assn. for Equal Justice in America, a Compton-based watchdog group that has sponsored town halls for federal and local law enforcement agencies, vowed Monday to request a federal probe into the two police shootings and to seek more police mediation.

"One woman with a knife couldn't be tackled by 10 officers?" he said. "Why couldn't someone sit there and talk to her, for 50 hours if necessary? It's a life."

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