The cops involved have gone back to work, and the investigation is nearly complete, says Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris. The scars -- to the police officers and to the family of the Martinez woman fatally shot two weeks ago -- will take much longer to heal.
In what a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe will certainly show is a clear-cut case of "suicide by cop," Kimberly Lane Weathers, 44, turned herself into a human target Aug. 30 when she came out of her apartment and pointed a pistol at Columbia County deputies.
Some people, including members of Weathers' family, wonder why the deputies shot first, or ask -- incredibly -- why the officers "shot to kill" in the tragic case.
What sometimes doesn't make sense to squeamish or uninformed civilians is that police officers are trained to respond to deadly force with deadly force of their own.
Such confrontations, while rare, aren't like some implausible episode of "Gunsmoke," where the town marshal shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand. Deputies aren't trained to shoot to wound, or shoot to disarm. If someone is a threat, deputies are trained to end the threat, period. That means aiming for center body mass of a person who is pointing a gun at other people, especially the deputies themselves.
If it comes to it, that means killing that person to remove the immediate threat.
That's what happened to Kimberly Lane Weathers. She had already shown her willingness to fire her pistol at other people when she aimed at least three shots at deputies outside her New Petersburg Road apartment. Even then, the deputies and investigators showed phenomenal restraint, patiently working for more than two hours to negotiate Weathers' surrender.
Sadly, all that came apart when Weathers walked out the front door, pointed the gun at herself and then turned toward the deputies. In that split second, she signed her own death warrant. Deputies didn't have to wait for her to take another shot; they had no choice but to fire at her to end the threat to themselves and to others.
It bears mentioning, too, that anyone inclined to believe the cops were trigger-happy had best note that, if anything, they were too reluctant to shoot: Four deputies fired shots that evening, but only one bullet hit the mark. If this had been a more serious confrontation, the community might also be in mourning a deputy or two.
Under any circumstances, such a death is senseless and sad. It's tragic for Weathers, and it's painful for her family and for her friends in the community. But it's also tough on the cops, who responded by the book and were forced to take the life of a troubled young woman.
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