Excerpts from Church Eyewitness Interviews
Robert Woodward was shot in the presence of 18 eyewitnesses. This is a compilation of the portions of their written statements and interviews with state police detectives pertaining to the actions of Woodward in the moments before the shooting. In the interviews, each eyewitness was asked a version of 'What was Woodward doing just prior to the first shot?', and all but one were asked a version of 'Did you see Woodward threaten anyone other than himself?'. 17 out of the 18 eyewitnesses state that Woodward was holding the knife to himself just prior first shot, and all eyewitnesses except one that was not asked state that Woodward did not threaten anyone other than himself. None of the eyewitnesses report seeing Woodward charge at Officer Parker.
Donna: Quoted in AG report because her statement "partially corroborates the officers' statements". Quoted as saying "wild upper body movements that he's just constantly flinching..." "Some movement of the knife other than at himself", "felt like there was some provocation on his part." "...was coming forward with his body, he was not retreating." "He (Woodward) was dangerous to begin with; he gave no evidence that he was going to do anything other than harm someone." 12/2 interview (she was not asked if Woody threatened anyone other than himself.) DP: "And they're (the officers) saying to him, you got to give it up, you got to stop this and he's not and they pull their guns out and they said, 'Just give us the knife, give us the knife.', and he said, "No, I'm not going to. I'm going to kill myself. I don't remember really if he switched hands or what he did but he made some movement with the knife other than at himself. And they said 'You're forcing us...we need you to stop this. Stay still, give us the knife.'. And he's like 'no' and he's got his arms up and the man on the right shot him in the left arm and maybe the shoulder and the other shot went about the same time and I didn't see where the other shots went but I thought I heard six. He didn't, you know, he's not giving up. He's not falling. Like after the first couple of shots, he's still not falling and it took whatever they gave him, as far as shooting, to get him to go down." INT: And right before he was shot, what's the last thing you remember him doing? Both the police and him doing? DP: "He's still looking at them in disbelief. And...you know, screaming...the same ranting of..." INT: What was he doing with the knife? DP: "He had the knife up to his eye or his head most of the time and , I don't know this for a fact, but right afterward, I thought that I saw him switch the knife form one hand to the other. But I can't say if I know that for a fact or not. What I am saying is, I felt like there was some provocation on his part." INT: Just prior to him being shot? DP: "Right. but he definitely didn't...he didn't retreat..." INT: And he...just before he was shot he had his knife out DP: "Yes." INT: And he had it toward his head or... DP: "He...you know, after maybe about that third shot he did have it down, but I don't know exactly where. Somewhere between chest level and thigh level." INT: Okay. Just before the shot he had the knife.... DP: Up. Definitely. INT: Towards his head? DP: Yup...Yup. Janis Quoted in AG report because her statement "partially corroborates the officers' statements". Quoted from her handwritten statement "came toward them-used knife-threatening", "over the edge...shrieking.", "They shot him once", "Kept coming" 12-2 Interview (the portion of this interview describing the time right before the shooting is quite long) INT: Did he ever threaten anybody there, directly? I mean as far as... JC: "Not any of us. Not any of us. I think our biggest concern was him hurting himself. The whole time he was there, you know, 99 percent of the time the knife was pointing at himself and his things were...his threats were, 'I'll kill myself. I'll kill myself. I swear I'll kill myself." INT: What was the last thing you remember as far as an exchange between the police officer and Mr. Woodward before the first shot? JC: "Just to put the knife down. Put the knife down...and drop the knife." INT: And did he say anything to that in response to that? JC: "He was shouting, 'No'..." INT: As you're saying no, you're waving your hands, was he doing that at all? JC: "He had the point...again...kept the point to his eye in his right hand...had the knife in his right hand holding it to his right eye and the left hand was in front of him almost as if to ward off somebody...But the knife, you know, once he pulled the knife out it was right there and kept it near his eye, very close to his eye, saying that was his thing. I guess that was his way he was going to kill himself was to plunge it into his eye. That was the main...it never went anywhere else...on the left side of his body, it was always at the right hand side either right in front of the eye or maybe very close to the temple. Mostly it was right in front of his eye." JC: "I believe the 'No, no', was directed at them (the officers)...he was doing this kind of thing." INT: Holding up his hands? JC: "Holding up his hands. At the time they came in...between the time they came and the time the shooting occurred." INT: So the police told him to drop the knife and he had the knife to his right eye and in that vicinity and kind of warding them off when his left hand, saying 'No, no, no', and then a shot rang out? Would that be what you remember? JC: "Hearing the shot, there was one shot and then a pause..." INT: Right. And then that pause, did Mr. Woodward turn the knife toward the officers and walk towards them or is that the part that you're not sure of where it happened? JC: "That's the part I'm not sure cause I turned...I turned to the people beside me and I said we have to go now. There's one part there I don't know exactly what happened but I do know, looking up when he did have the knife, it was not in his eye, he had the knife forward and then the very...there was movement...the police were moving forward...they were coming forward, yes they were...and then the several shots took place. JC: "I wasn't really looking at him. He turned and started to come forward. they were telling him to put the knife down. I heard one shot. There was a short period and we heard several more shots fired. He was coming forwar4d toward them and he...he did have the knife pointed like this at one point." INT: So when the police officers arrived, he took the knife form pointing the blade at him to the blade at the police officers? JC: "When he was over by the Christmas tree he still had the knife by his head. He had it right by his eye. He had it right here and at one point I saw him go like this...but it was mostly here. RM: And again for tape purposes. JC: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. He had it pointed at his eye." INT: His right eye? JC: His right eye, most of the time. At one point I saw him hold it to his right temple, but the vast majority of the time it was right at his right eye, pointed right in front of it. I felt...I saw his arm swing around..." INT: Just prior to the initial gunshot you said that...and correct me if I'm wrong, but just from what you gestured here a little while ago, that he took the blade and kind of made a gesture towards the officers? So that the blade was pointed to them or walked toward them or moved toward them? JC: "When he...I'll be honest with you, I believe it was after the first gunshot." INT: Okay. JC: "But at one point I did see him with the knife out in front of him." INT: With the blade pointed toward the officers? Or pointed... JC: "Yes." INT: Back at him? JC: "No." INT: Toward the officers. JC: "At one point there was one of these." INT: Alright, again, one of these? JC: "I'm sorry. Sorry. At one point he had the knife in front of him with a swing like this." INT: A level swing... JC: "Like this..." INT: Horizontal swing? JC : "Yes. Horizontal" INT: "With the blade pointed toward the officers? JC: "Yes." INT: And that was after... JC: "I honestly can't tell you if it was after the first shot or before the first shot. I do remember seeing him waving the knife." INT: Okay. And did he move toward the officers when he did that? Or did he ever move toward the officers? JC: "He was coming...he came from the corner...he came forward because he ended up...there was a movement forward, he ended up in front of the podium, as I faced the podium, to the left of the podium. He ended up in a crumpled heap on the floor with his belly facing the podium. JC: "I can't tell you the back and forth movement. If he moved forward or if the police moved forward, I could not tell you that. I don't have a clear recollection of that. INT: While the officers were talking to him did you see them walking...moving towards him or were they stationery as they talked with him, do you recall? JC: "I can't tell you their movements. I was more focused on what he was doing and I was also focused on getting the people out. It would only be a peripheral view. INT: Okay. And we only want what you saw and heard. But he moved forward, was this after they told him to drop the knife? JC: "He had the knife in front of his eye." INT: Right. Over by the Christmas tree. JC: Over by the Christmas tree. And he was...kind of...just...when people are scared they're kind of hopping back and forth...when he took his steps forward, I can not tell you. I do know he moved from where he was in the corner to coming over by the podium." INT: Did you watch him do that? JC: "I saw him moving. Now whether as he was moving, they were moving, I cannot tell you that." INT: Okay. JC: "That...those last few things happened extremely quickly, obviously. the gunshots were very, very quick." Jane: Quoted in AG report because her statement "partially corroborates the officers' statements". "I'm a pacifist, but aggressive action was required." 12/2 interview JW: "And he wasn't pointing the knife at anyone else. It was only at his eye." INT: Was there anything that...at the point that the officer shot - that Woody had done; made a movement that you could see, started toward anybody, anything? JW: "I didn't see him move toward anybody else. Like I said, the knife got closer to his right eye..." JW: "I don't remember the police officers saying anything more than "Drop the knife". JW: "He just insisted that he was going to hurt himself. I don't remember him saying anything else. He made no threats to the officers" He made no threats to anyone else." INT: I don't know if I asked you that, but between the officers arrival and the time the shots were fired, how long do you think... JW: "It seemed like it went very quickly. I remember them standing there asking him to, you know, they said it very nicely the first time, 'drop the knife, drop the knife. I think someone said something like, 'We're here to help you'. but right after that the gun was out and then came forth the other order, 'drop the knife'. Then the shooting ensued." INT: Mr. Woodward said "No, I'm not going to.", though? JW: "The one time. and he wasn't pointing the knife at anyone else. It was only at his eye." Michael: Quoted in AG report because his statement "partially corroborates the officers' statements". "almost seemed like he (Woodward) was taunting the police, fearful but enraged." "His intense absorption with his delusions was striking." "In my years of dealing with psychotic individuals, he was right up there, and he was armed with a knife...He was off the charts." 12/2 written statement "The 3 officers approached him and were about 7 feet away from him when one pulled out his gun, then followed by another. They shouted for him to put the knife down which he did not do. The next think I knew 3-5 shots rang out." 12/2 interview MI: "My view of his face and body was momentarily blocked by the officers when the first shot rang out, which was followed quickly by two or four more. I was about 12 feet away and the last view I had of his face was with the knife towards himself. I cannot say if he turned the knife out or made a threatening move before the first shot was fired." INT: Ok, and did the officers, when they were confronting him, what happened then? MI: "It was held up to his right eye, I do not recall him turning the knife outwardly." INT: OK, did you see the suspect do anything right before being shot, and maybe in an aggressive manner to either the police officers, himself, or any member of the congregation? MI: "The only act of aggression that I could see ah the last time that I had the repeating line, direct line of sight of him with the knife was that it was held up toward himself." INT: Did you ever see him point the knife at the officers? MI: "No." INT: Did you ever see him point the knife at you, or at any member of the congregation? MI: "No" INT: Did he ever make any comments like he was going to kill the police? MI: "No, his, ah, his comments were essentially that he was going to be killed. That they were going to kill him." INT: What, what do you mean by that? What did he say? MI: "I don't ever recall him saying anything to the effect that I'm going to kill you or I'm going to kill them, but rather his verbalization were all self-directed. I'm going to kill myself, and um, ah they're going to kill me." Sherry 12/2 interviewer's summary "As the police officers approached Woodward, he stared yelling and backed up to the Christmas Tree with a knife to his head threatening to kill himself." 12/2 interview INT: So from what you could see what caused the officers to shoot? SM: (long pause) "You got me. I think it was the fear factor. I don't know how they were trained. I don't know..." INT: From what you saw, was there something that Bob did that caused them to react by shooting? SM: "I didn't see him pull anything out, you know, to shoot at him, you know? I don't know. To tell you the truth, what I did in my mind, I actually told myself I thought it was a stun gun. I thought it was something like a tranquilizer, something to calm him. You know, and so I was so. I mean I couldn't believe that that's the way you would...react. I mean, is that the way you deal with them? I mean, I don't know, I don't know. Was there anything else going on?" INT: Bob had the knife at his eye, you said? SM: "He was definitely threatening to kill himself, definitely threatening to kill himself." INT: Does Bob make a move toward the officer or a move toward anybody or something like that? SM: "Well, he was with Michael before and I thought he moved over there like kind of center state, you know, like...that was his...no, I thought...he was not attacking. He was not attacking." INT: From where you were, were you afraid of being in danger from this Bob? SM: "No, I felt in control of myself, you know. I didn't feel that he was going to hurt me." Adlebert 12/2 written statement "The police shouted at him to drop the knife. When he apparently didn't respond, but became more agitated, there were 2 or 3 shots." 12/2 interview INT: What did they shout at him? AA: "I think drop the knife." INT: Did he take a step towards the police at all? AA: "Not that I saw." AA: "I think that I would have remembered I think if he had turned in any aggressive way and threatened them." INT: Ok, when, uh, what did this gentleman do before you heard the ring out? AA: "...I think he was threatening himself with his knife...I didn't see him threaten anyone else...he never pointed his knife that I saw...at any other person." Mary 12/2 interview INT: Did you see him make any motion toward...with the knife or himself, toward either the officers or anybody else in the congregation? MT: "Only to himself. He had it up to his eye." INT: But did he physically move his body anywhere? Did he make a motion like he was walking towards them or he was walking toward a member of the congregation? MT: "No, to me he didn't. But maybe someone who was closer in the front row had a different perspective, but I didn't think he moved toward them or away...he certainly didn't move toward the congregation. I thought he was just there threatening to kill himself if they came any closer." Interviewer's summary of March interview: "Woodward did not go forward toward the police just before the first shot. if anything, he 'backed up'. She didn't see any threats to the police from Woodward." Robert 12/2 written statement "He had nowhere to go, refused to give himself up, and to my amazement the police started shooting." "I witnessed both the arrival of the police as well as the actual shooting." 12/2 interview RT: "I don't see in any shape or form that this man as a threat to the police." INT: Why's that? RT: "Just because he was backing away, I suppose if you put your hand out he probably would stab at it. I don't mean a threat as he was charging into the police, you know. It seems to be there might have been another way to subdue him without shooting him. It certainly didn't need 4 policemen shooting him." INT: Did Mr. Woodward, what did Mr. Woodward do just prior to the officers shooting? RT: "Resist them." INT: How did he resist them? RT: "I don't know, they were on him in no time. One minute he was standing and the next minute the guns are firing, bang, bang, bang..." INT: Let me ask you a question again, the question I just posed to you, was what did Mr. Woodward do, if anything, just prior to him being shot and you told me that he resisted, is that correct? RT: "A, ya I think it's correct, he didn't just stop and throw down the knife and say here I am. Something about throw down hands up, nothing like that. INT: Okay, but when you said that Mr. Woodward resisted the police right before he was shot, what do you mean, what did he do that made you believe that he was resisting? RT: "I didn't see any specific action, I just assumed looking policemen without seeing." RT: "I could see that he hadn't thrown down the knife, stood up and put his hands up or whatever one does to surrender. I mean I had no impression that he was surrendering at all. Neither did I have any impression that the policemen had the slightest need to fear for their lives." INT: Okay, were you afraid? RT: "No." INT: You weren't afraid? RT: "No." Tommy 12/2 Written Statement "One pulled a gun. And when Woodward Pointed the knife at his own eyes, shot." "I can't remember if Mr. Woodward then made more threatening gestures that he was going to commit suicide. He certainly wasn't threatening the policemen in any way and then the policeman shot." 12/2 interview INT: Did he approach the officers when he first encountered them? JT: "No, I would no say that he threatened them. He was always threatening himself, threatening to harm himself." INT: ...when he fell forward did you see Mr. Woodward make any kind of gesture or threatening motion? JT: "He wasn't coming at them with the knife like this. The knife was always pointed toward himself." INT: And he always had the knife pointed toward himself? JT: "Pointed toward himself." Iain 12/2 Interviewer's Summary "He said the man was backing away from the police towards the right corner... He said he thinks they (the police) took one or two steps forward before stopping, then shouting for the man to drop the knife. He said the next thing that happened was the shot." "I asked him what precipitated the shots being fired? He said he wasn't doing anything different. Knife was still in his hand pointed to his head." "He said he didn't feel threatened. He said he took out the knife but then pointed it towards himself. I asked him if the suspect ever pointed it towards someone else (He said he may have had it out but it wasn't out very long). He said he didn't feel he was threatening anybody in particular. I asked him if there was ever any time that he may have pointed the knife towards the officers. Yes, he may have stretched it out but it was in a defensive posture, like stay away. He was backing away. He said he never felt like he was doing any harm unless they got too close to him or they tried touching him." Norman 12/2 written statement by the time the police arrived, Woodward had a small folding knife which he was pointing at his eye. I did not see him at any time point it in any other direction, nor did he make any sort of threatening remark or gesture. 12/2 Interview NH: "I want to stress one thing, you've probably heard this from others, too. There was no threatening done. I mean, he did not threaten anybody except himself." NH: "None of us felt physically threatened anyway." INT: Did you ever see him point the knife in the direction of the police or anybody in the congregation? NH: "I didn't see him point it at any time except to his own eye." Clifton 12/2 Interview INT: Just prior to the first shot, did you see the gentleman make any movement toward the police or toward anybody in the congregation or take the knife away from...you said he was holding it toward his head? Did his hands come down? What was he doing just before the shot? Were you looking at him? CJ: "I wasn't really looking at him. I was sort of looking at the police cause they were talking to him. It looked like he was coming forward but he...I think he had been shot at that point, once. I just thought he was being stunned or something...That's all I saw. I didn't see him, you know, wielding a knife or anything like that. I just saw him point it, he threatened himself..." INT: When he was shot, whereabouts was he in relation to the pulpit? CJ: "Well, I thought it was strange. I remember him backing away towards the Christmas tree and then he came forward. I thought maybe, you know, I heard the shot and I looked toward the shot and I saw him go forward and I think he was falling forward and somehow he got toward the pulpit and I thought, how did he get over there from the Christmas tree but evidently that movement took place after the first shot. That's what it looked like to me." INT: Okay. so if you were looking at the police officers just prior to the first shot ringing out could you see through your periphery or what this Mr. Woodward could have done to bring that shot on? CJ: "He was threatening himself and he was verbalizing he was going to stab himself and I saw the knife close to his body, his head, he got closer to his eye. Just going to cut his eye, you know, just stab...put the knife into his eye." Bob 12/2 Interview INT: Did you ever hear Mr. Woodward threaten any of the police officers or anybody else in the congregation? RM: "No." "He was not threatening anybody else. He was going to kill himself." INT: But during any of this time here did you ever see Mr. Woodward lower the knife in the direction of either the police officers or anyone else? RM: "No, I didn't see...I didn't see that." Polly 12/2 interview MW: "He never threatened anyone else with the knife." MW: "He didn't go like this toward the officer, he did it toward his own eye, his own eye." INT: And then what happened? MW: "And then the policeman shot." INT: And waving a knife? MW: "Waving. Not...and he looked defensive, not offensive. If you know what I mean by that difference." INT: But again, at the time of the first shot, what was he doing? You were looking at him, what was he doing at the time of the first shot? MW: "He was...I think he was standing to the left hand side of the lectern and he had...at the time of the first shot he had a knife towards his own eye." Phyllis 12/2 interview PW: "...he backed up now into this corner...All of a sudden I hear a shot..." INT: If at any point he lunged towards the police? PW: "No. No...I never saw and I asked one of the other guys who said he was looking because it wasn't that I was frightened, I didn't want to see, but I was...my attention was elsewhere. But every time I saw him with the knife, the knife was towards himself, he was threatening to do himself harm." INT: He threatened himself with the knife? PW: "Never. Yes. He threatened himself. He never threatened anyone else. I never felt in any danger." INT: Do you recall if he made threats to any other person... PW: "No. He did not." PW: "I wasn't in the least frightened." Charles 12/2 interview INT: Did you at any point...did you see...person lower the knife at all? CT: "No." INT: Did you ever hear him threaten anybody in the congregation or any of the officers with the knife? CT: "No." Heidi 12/2 interview HB: "He was still sitting when he first noticed that the police had entered." HB: "He didn't act like he was going to hurt anybody other than himself." HB: "He kept pointing his...the knife right there, you know?" INT: You were pointing to your eye. HB: "Yes." HB: "He put the knife back on his eye. He was doing the same thing. That's the last thing I remember him doing." Mary T 12/2 written statement "I was not afraid for myself but for him. At this point three policemen arrived in full regalia and advanced toward him. I'm sure of his state, he seemed utterly terrified- -He pulled out the knife again and said he would kill himself if they advanced toward him. Suddenly, I heard three shots." "I never at any time felt any danger for my own life." 12/2 interview INT: Did you see him make any motion toward...with the knife or himself, toward either the officers or anybody else in the congregation? MT: "Only to himself. He had it up to his eye." INT: But did he physically move his body anywhere? Did he make a motion like he was walking toward them or he was walking toward a member of the congregation? MT: "No, to me he didn't...I didn't think he moved toward them or away...he certainly didn't move toward the congregation. I thought he was just there threatening to kill himself if they came any closer." Mary H 12/2 interview INT: Did the officers say anything to this gentleman? MH: "...I do know that he never once was going to do anything to anybody else." INT: Where was he when he was shot? MH: "He was...one of the police...he had pulled out this stiletto or whatever it was and touched it to his eye and I think that the police were sure that he was going to try to do something to himself and so wrestled him down to the floor when the shots came." MH: "As I say he never threatened anybody in the room."