NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith held a media briefing Monday morning to discuss updates to recent fatal officer-involved shootings.
On the afternoon of June 4, officers responded to 850 E. Virginia Beach Blvd. to serve an emergency custody order to a resident at Calvary Towers. Officers identified themselves, and then 72-year-old Lawrence Faine, armed with a knife, charged at an officer in the small apartment, according to Chief Goldsmith. The officer fired his weapon and Mr. Faine later died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Two days later, officers were called to the 400 block of West 30th Street for separate calls about a man with a knife threatening his brothers. Chief Goldsmith says officers arrived to find 35-year-old David Latham armed with a knife, blocking the doorway to the residence. Latham refused to drop the knife and an officer discharged his firearm. Mr. Latham was shot and later died at the hospital.
Chief Goldsmith said he’s heard media reports that the Norfolk Police Department is developing a pattern of how officers respond to mental health calls, but he says most calls are resolved with little incident.
“Despite the tragic incidents in the last few days, since 2011 we responded to more than 7900 psychiatric calls for service,” he said. “So far this year, officers have responded to 909 psychiatric calls.”
He said 105 officers have completed advanced training, which covers how to deal with suicidal subjects, mental illness and PTSD. Thirty full-time members of this team are spread throughout the department.
“Even with all of our training and best efforts, our officers sometimes find themselves in a rapidly escalating, dynamic situation with the need to use force in an attempt to save a life of a citizen or to protect their own,” Goldsmith said.
The shootings happened just days after Officer Brian Jones was killed in the line of duty. Goldsmith said he does not think the loss of a fellow officer has put the force on edge, referencing more than 130 calls officers responded to since then without problems.
“In the last nine days, Norfolk police officers have responded to 76 weapons calls, 36 mental health calls, and 24 violent domestic calls. All of these were resolved with little incident,” he said.
Last week, Latham’s aunt, Barbara Latham White, said Latham’s mother and sister watched an officer shoot him repeatedly: “Right at the door, three times, and while he’s laying on the kitchen floor, he’s still being shot. I mean, you wouldn’t do a dog that way.”
Chief Goldsmith dismissed that account, saying there was no evidence to support it. He said he did not have information with him on how many times the officer shot Latham, but believed it was more than once.
Goldsmith addressed the Latham family’s question about why police did not use a Taser: “You can do a lot of damage with a knife. The second thing is these incidents were rapidly escalating dynamic incidents. The use of a Taser would not have been appropriate. The officers ended up having to use their firearms in order to save their own lives and save the lives of other citizens.”
Chief Goldsmith would not say whether he believed deadly force was justified in both shootings, citing the investigations, but he said he stands by his officers.
Both officers involved in the shootings have been placed on administrative duty, pending the outcome of the investigations.