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Opinions of the Police Action

Most of eyewitnesses were surprised and some shocked to learn that the police used live ammunition on Woody. Several expressed that they thought the police used stun guns. Here are the eyewitness descriptions of their reactions to the police action.

Eyewitnesses

Adelbert
source:12/2 handwritten statement
At this point, the uniformed police burst in with pistols drawn. This seemed to me about the worst thing that could have happened from the point of view of the man's mental state.
source:12/2 interview, p.4
Suddenly appeared two or three uniformed policemen with their guns out, which to my mind was the worst thing that could have happened to his mental state. He was suddenly attacked by this ... and they shouted at him and that just really upset him. People up until then had been speaking to him in a consoling type way. I thought this was the worst psycho therapy from a psycho therapist point, which was the worst thing that could have happened.
source:12/2 interview, p.6
I didn't [the tone of voice] appropriate for speaking to someone who was psychotic and upset. I mean it was very loud shouts. And I don't recall more than I think they said drop the knife.
source:12/2 interview, p.14
Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about this, sir?
Uh ... well, only I think the police need more training.
.
Hedi
source:?
I don't know why they couldn't just hit his arm. He had one arm and one knife, you know ... You know what, I don't understand. I mean, I tell you, I have worked subduing people from doing people before, you know, you just have to talk them down. And it's hard to see someone come into the church wanting sanctuary, and you sit there and just shoot him. It just leaves you with total bereftment of this man.
source:12/3 interview
do you think the police could have calmed him down
I wish they had. I wish they had spent some more time talking to him, or somebody on the police, you know, that somebody kind of a manner to get him down. I don't know if he could ... you know all this couldn't have been more than twenty minutes. I mean there's not anybody spent any time with this guy who was so desperate. I mean this man was hurting. But he was more than that. He was crazy. He was obviously crazy.
I just wish someone had briefed them. Maybe someone did, but I doubt it. It was so ... I mean from the time I saw them to the time they shot him, if there was two minutes, it was a long time. It was very fast.
You have to make contact with someone before you can control their behavior. You need to establish some eye contact. You've got to get them to focus on you. You've got to tell them you're there to help, you know, you've got to guide them through."
Should I have gone out to the police and say "Hey, just take it easy" I mean I don't even know. I mean nobody ... I don't know what anybody said to the police. They were just another layer of entity coming in there, and doing their thing. I bet most of us felt it was good to get someone in there.
source:3/12 synopsis
She believes police had no plan when they arrived, and she feels violated by their return to duty after this shooting.
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Norman
source:12/7 e-mail
Three uniformed policemen entered the room from the back and began shouting and two of the three fired shots at Woodward, without any period of trying first to get him to surrender to them.
source:3/25 WHS notes
He feels there should have been an alternative to killing Woodward" Wants to know why alternatives to deadly force were not used.
.
Clifton
source:12/3 interview
Well, yes, I wish they had ... I wish they had tried. I don't know whether they had the ability to do that, whether they were trained or not. I wouldn't know. But there is usually somebody trained from the police force who does something like that when a person is behaving like this.
source:12/3 interview, p.7
I just couldn't believe this was, going to go on, real bullets being, I mean, I just have a different feeling about psychotic people. Somehow you can eventually capture them in another way, and that shooting didn't enter my mind at all. I thought they would kind of scare him, you know, that di some.. find some other way, you know, to capture him. It's almost ... what happened to him is exactly went along with the first statements that he made that he was afraid that he was going to get hurt and die and evidently that's what happened.
.
Sherry
I just couldn't believe it was actually happening.
I wish that we had had the intelligence to go outside and had asked the officer to come in the back so that they could have come around from the back and maybe even handled him physically because I don't think the knife was out at that point.
For them, coming from where they came from, they had no idea of any of the story, of any of the set-up. They had no bacground to see whether he was willing to listen or not.
I could see how they could want to protect this other person, from, you know, not knowing anything, that he might have attacked Michael with the knife.
source:3/12
I consider it reasonable, no problem with what the police did.
.
Tommy
source:12/2 interview
The one who was nearest to me pulled out a gun, and I said, My God, what is he going to do? And I can't quite remember what it was that made him think it was necessary to shoot.
I was just stunned when I saw them pull their guns.
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Mary
source:21/2 interview
That [the cops shooting] bothered us. It bothered everybody there, I'm sure.
not only did he not threaten anybody. But if it had been anybody but the police, they would have called it murder.
.
Phyllis
source:12/2 interview
I was totally shocked. I did not expect guns. I thought, just talk him out.
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Polly
And I thought this really is a terrible tragedy because here was a man who was almost under control, he'd been talked into being quiet ...
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Robert
I will say that I couldn't believe what I saw, that I thought they were stun guns, and in fact people were reassuring themselves that tat was the case.
I think it was also a lot of people hoped that it was not a gun, and something to subdue somebody.
I think it's tough being a policeman. I think everyone understands that. Whether the police are going to tell us their own story. I doin't see in any shape or form that this man was a threat to the police.
Why's that?
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 pollice you know. It seems there might have been another way to subdue him without shooting. It certainly didn't need four policement shooting him.
That's your opinion?
That's my opinion, well, I think you will find a lot of people will say that. I don't object, obviously something had to be done, but- (is interrupted by officer interviewing him.) (So how many police do you think there were?)
source:3/25 synopsis
He saw nothing by Woodward that would have made any of the congregation or the police feel physically threatened. He feels the police should have done more to get the knife and to bring Woodward down before the shooting. He has set up a memorial fund in Woodward's name with the money collected to benefit the Vt. Nat. Res, council.
.
Janis
source:12/2 interview, p11
At the very end, do you think that he was going to hurt ...
could have hurt somebody? Did you feel that instead of him
getting up there and wanting to say something or hurting
himself at the very last second, could he have ...
Yes.
Hurt somebody else?
Yes. I believe he thought he was trapped and he ... I believe he had the capability of hurting someone at that point. Yes, I do.
.
Jane
source:12/2 interview
But I also did not perceive that the police officer talk in a way ... in a way for someone who is possibly psychotic, in a way that was helpful. ... and the concern that I"ve heard, I know at one point, coming from the minister, that she had tried to alert the officers what they were walking into a little bit. I was concerned about that. I guess I would have thought that if someone had some training that it would have been nice for it to have been tried.
source:12/2 interview
I guess my perspective on the crisis, after doing crisis work, is a crisis is a crisis, and there's no perfect solution to a crisis, and I'm sure that, even though I question where he was shot, I have to question the traumatic state that perhaps the police officer was in when he delivered those shots. Because I didn't see how the other shots were inflicted. If the gentleman was turning over, if he started taking the knife to himself, I don't know. I don't know if that would explain the reasons why he received the other gunshot wounds where he did. You know, but again, going back to a crisis is a crisis, there's no perfect solution. I think that if the officer had not acted in an aggressive manner, and if indeed this guy had more things on him in person, and none of us knew that ... none of us knew what he had on his person. Potentially, who knows what he could have done? And it is possible ... I mean I do think that there had to be swift action taken, so I can appreciate that.
source:3/11 VHS notes
"I'm a pacifist, but aggressive action was required." Because cops were part of Woodward's delusional system there was a loss of any opportunity to de-escalate the situation. Cops were not inept, can't say the shots were not justified.
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Donna
source:12/3 interview
I mean the police came in ... I do wish that there would have been an alternative to him having been shot and obviously killed, but that just didn't happen.
.
William Davies
the police officer that did not fire, referring to the episode of the three officers filling out their reports in the same room a few hours after the shooting.
Was there any conversation between the three of you as to
what happened?
Not in regards to the incident. I mean, we had normal police, you know, tease each other or do those kinds of things that you normally do.
.

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