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Sorrell

Arrival of Police Terrifies Woody

Mr. Sorrell strenuously maintained at his press conference that Woody 'escalatated' in response to a churchmember rather than the entry of the police. Here are the words of the eyewitnesses and the police on this subject.

Eyewitnesses

Adelbert
He was really upset when he saw the police.
.
Heidi
source:12/3 interview, p.3
And then when the police came in, he jumped up and he began to just really, you know, don't... and he screamed and he carried on. And I was aware of, with the police coming in that his anxiety escalated. I mean, he obviously was afraid. So... and I think also the way they came in, I mean, it's scary.
I know they both came and charged forward but they never got any closer, you know, from here...
You could see that when you sit by the window and the window was behind him and there's shades. And so he was there and then he was still sitting when he first noticed that the police was.. had entered, and that's when it got... but it wasn't just him, you saw the people around you also picking up and going, yo usee. With them coming in there was a lot of movement there which was very frightening to everybody, I'm sure.
.
Clifton
source:12/2 written statement
They came from the back of the room and he became even more agitated. And he backed up against the Christmass tree and threatened himself more, put the knife toward his eyes. And before I knew it, he cam forward and there was one shot, I believe.
.
Charles
The arrival of the police escalated his threats of killing himself, shouting for us to stay.
(Woody and Michael Italia) never sat for long because the guy wanted to keep standing, and then Mike kept standing and the guy gave him a phone number...
And then ah... that's when he came in, he yells and they guy says ... pulls out the knife and says don't leave and there ... people were saying you're scaring us, you know. And ah... he's ... he's holding it right up to his eye. I'll kill myself. And ah ... and he's really agitated when he speaks.
You know, it seems very soon after he's threatening to kill himself that two policemen came in. There might have been more. I only saw two. And he yelled, see there they are. You know, here they are. Um... and they're going to kill me, they're going to threaten me, they're going to torture me, or whatever he said. He yelled out all these things. I can't remember exactly what he said. And he said he would kill himself if they take another step forward and the police yelled you all leave. Like really shouted.
.
Mary T
source:12/2 interview
I think he thought that these... something to the effect that they've come to get me. I don't know what he said.
I don't know how much he had calmed down, but he was calmer than when he first came in. But then he became very agitated. ... I think these three men just fulfilled whatever he was thinking of his vision that he had, you know. There were these men, you know, with their outfits, which can be rather threatening if you think you're involved in something like that. So he became, I think, quite agitated then.
source:3/25 synopsis
Woodward got very agitated and pulled the knife again after the police came in.
source:3/25 synopsis
Later is sitting on a stool when cops came in.
.
Sherry
When a person told people to leave the building, Woodward became agitated and loudly told people in a desperate voice, "not to go". As the police officers approached Woodward he started yelling and. Backed up to the Christmass tree, threatening to kill himself. The police had guns pointed telling him to put the knife down but this had no positive effect on Woodward.
It was a lot of commotion and then they had ... he had his knife at this point... he just totally went wild, in the sense there was no talking. He stood up, he took his knife, and he started yelling a whole bunch of different things. And that he was going to kill himself. "Don't come any closer, I'm going to kill myself. Don't." You know it was all about, you know, I really think the whole thing was like it was a suicide thing.
(wishes she could have told cops to come around back entrance or something) because I don't' think the knife was out at that point.
.
Bob
When the police arrived and that just ... everything just blew up. A sight of a uniform just totally changed the whole character of the scene.
When the police arrived and that just ... everything
When the police came, he had it (the knife) right up to his face like this, he was going to puncture his eye.
Now, did the knife come out before the police arrived?
Yes. Yes it was. The police had been alerted and they ... they said get everybody out of the room before they actually came up. So someone was appointed to ... to tell us so Charlie Tummino this .. the trustee that said ... everybody ... everybody must leave now ... and Woodward went bananas. He just ... He just said no, no, no, no, no you must stay I'll kill ... and that's when the knife came out. He had it against his cheek at that point. It wasn't in his eye. And that's,.. that's when we saw the knife.
source:3/12 synopsis
He thinks the knife came out the second time after the police arrived.
source:?
He saw Woodward sitting, turned, took 2 or 3 steps and fell as first shot came. So Woodward was sitting around the same moment as the cops came in.
.
Tommy
At that point police entered the room and tried to duck back out of sight. Woodward saw the police and pulled out a dangerous looking knife. He pointed the knife at his eyes and threatened suicide.
I saw a policeman come in to the room but he was kind of behind a corner. The entrance isn't readily visible from the front of the room. The policeman kind of peeked out and ducked right back again. He was a young man, but Bob Woodward saw him and immediately retreated over towards the opposite corner. Yes, where the Christmass tree was. He retreated over that way and became extremely agitated.
Well, when he first saw the officer he immediately became very agitated. When they approached him, when they went up front and approached him, he was just very agitated.
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Robert
When the police walked in, did the guy have th e knife out? I don't know, I think so, yes. I don't recall. I never saw him pull the knife. I mean, one minute it wasn't there and next minute he pulled it.
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Polly
I had glanced at the police when they first came in, and I immediately looked back at Mr. Woodward because I felt that he would be traumatized by the police presence. And he was. When I looked at him before I looked at the police, he was sitting in the chair. When I looked back it seems to me that he was to the left hand side of the lectern, Very agitated and waving a knife. Not... and he looked defensive, not offensive.
.
Janis
source:12/2 handwritten statement
Two police officers came in and told Woody to put the knife down. He was yelling loudly at this point.
There were two policemen to my left, they were motioning me to leave. I had the person next to me, I told her go, go, go, get out of the way. As I started to walk out there were several elderly people in front of me who had trouble walking. I started to help them out quietly, I got to about the third person ... the police came forward and he got.. he went over to the corner of the room by the Christmass tree and he was really starting to yell loudly at this point. I'm sorry. (crying?) Part way through this he did pull out a knife from his pocket and held it toward his eye and he kept saying he would kill himself. This was before the police arrived.
source:12/2 interview, p.9
I hadn't gotten to Mary yet, and Phylliss, another woman, was coming to help her to get her out, and as we were doing that I heard him yell, "No, no, no" and I think he realized then the police were there and at this point he was over in the corner by the Christmass tree. He was extremely upset that they were there.
source:12/2 interview, p.9
Once the police got there did he seem to become substantially
more agitated or somewhat more agitated or was ...
More agitated when he realized they were there, he was more agitated.
source:12/2
Woodward had seen the police and his agitated state really escalated.
.
Jane
source:12/2 interview
When I saw the officer point the gun at him, at that point I felt like Woody started getting more escalated.
source:12/2 interview
What I remember him asking or commenting was "Oh, God," It's like, I think he said something like "It's the fucking police," or 'it's the police," which was one of his first nightmares, that he told the congregation before the police had arrived, he didn't want the police to be involved and didn't want the police there.
source:12/2 interview
I felt like by the time the gun got out and Woody was responding the way that he was, I felt that it was not going to be easy for me to begin intervening, because it had escalated
.
Donna Payne
source:12/3 interview
Michael Italia said "Bob will you let me talk to you?" and that's when he said his nickname, "you can call me by my nickname, Woody" And he sort of backed off the podium, almost like he had gotten what he needed.
source:12/3 interview
"OK, everybody out of the room, you got to get out of the building." He nearly went into hysterics and he pulled out the knife from his pocket, he pulled it out ... he said "I've got a knife, I'll kill myself,' and he's pointing it at his head and he points it at his eye.
source:12/3 interview
And then somebody was mumbling, "are the police here yet? The police are here." Whatever. And then he said "I hear that. Are the police there? If they police are here they are going to torture me, they are going to kill me. I told you they're going to assassinate me It'll be all over now. You've got to give me asylum. You've got to help me and I'm going to kill myself." He's still screaming, "I'm going to kill myself"
.
Michael
At one point someone asked people to leave which caused him to react with further agitation.
Bob jumped up and pulled out his knife, stuck it up to his right eye and yelled for everyone to stay, otherwise he would kill himself.
A few seconds later police officers arrived at the door ... His escalation increased dramatically and he began to yell.
I did not see him turn the knife away from himself.
He asked for a phone call could be made to someone who could vouch for who he was ... His verbalizations remained pressured throughout the whole time but there was a brief quieting of his tone at this point. Someone in the congregation still sitting there, I think her name was Emily, produced a cell phone. I took it and a chair which I placed to the side of the podium. ... I was shaking like a leaf inside. He handed me a yellow sheet of paper about five inches wide by ten inches long, which had a number of names and phone numbers, many of which had 413 area codes. He told me a name which I think began with a K and was about the fourth one down on the list to call. At that point I had sat down in the chair I pulled over and I believe he was sitting in his chair also. He was calmer in relation to hear earlier presentation, but I remained very cautious. He also said to tell them Woody was calling, almost matter of factly. I got an answering machine on that first call, so I hung up. I told him so which may have frustrated him to some degree. I believe he stood up, slightly increased in agitation, then he recited another number to call, which I don't know if it was only the list. I dialed that number on which I again got an answering machine. I can't remember if I handed him back the list at that point in order for him to point out another number or not, but I lost track of it at some point. I was hoping that he would pick out another name to connect to. I again was hoping that people were still exiting, but I was aware of some individuals in their chairs, mostly elderly, near the front. I also recall seeing one police car drive by out the window about this time. I was thinking of other ways to connect with him in order to redirect him away from his delusions, such as seeing if he would talk about his work with kids, etc. Just as I was into starting that tack, a male congregation member came into the hall and yelled for everyone to get out. I was startled, glanced over in that direction, and when I looked back, the man had the knife out again while yelling not leave or he would kill himself. I had stood up and slowly backed away. The knife was again in his right hand and held with the blade pointing at his right eye, just a couple inches from it. At that time he was still behind and on the other side of the podium. Just a few seconds after that he had a horrified look on his face and then he shouted out that the police are here, they're coming to kill me. I looked back and saw that a couple officers had entered the room and were standing about 20 to 25 feet away.
He asked for a phone, he didn't have his cell phone.
He was starting to de-escalate some.
Somebody ran, came in from the congregation and said everybody get out, get out. Something to that effect, fairly loudly and forcefully. And he immediately stood up again and in just a very quick motion he produced the knife again and held it up to his eye. ... I stood up and slowly, slowly began to back away from him.
Were you afraid?
Not that he was going to go after me, that he was going to poach (sic) it into his eye.
Not to make judgment or anything but it just seemed like when the events of getting him to deescalate and then when that church member came in and asked people to leave loudly, ah did the escalate just kind of went through the roof and the chain of events happened very quickly.
.
Marshall Holbrook
An unknown male advised me that the subject was in the sanctuary w/knife and was threatening to kill himself and had been threatening people.
I asked a woman who was leaving which one was the subject and she told me it was the one with the blue shirt on, and to watch out as he has a knife.
Here was quite a few people around, kind of just standing around ... but yeah I came in contact with a few people. There was one man I remember he had told me that the guy had a knife and he was threatening people and that he was in the sanctuary of the church. I heard people say things like, you know, like there's only one officer, I hope there's more coming. Things like that.
There were some nervous people standing there (at the door)
There was a bunch of people, probably might have been six or eight people standing in the entrance way. And I kind of thought that was strange, especially if if there was a man in there with a knife.
I wasn't sure which one it was at first, so I asked the lady and she said it was the guy in the blue shirt.
I couldn't see his hands, his hands were down. I couldn't see if he had the knife or anything else in his hand at that time, no.
I knew he couldn't see me from my point, because I was behind this corner here.
Um, and they were just ignoring me which I thought was kind of strange, but they just, they were just sitting in their chairs and I kept motioning and they wouldn't come out.
I waited for (the other officers) I wasn't just going to just go right into a situation, you know, without ya know, another officer there ...
.

Police

Terrance Parker
source:report, p.18
Two men were in the front of the sanctuary, one sitting and one standing. The one standing had a blue polo type shirt and light colored pants, holding a knife in his right hand.
source:12/3 interview, p.4
People, apparently from the church were milling around, talking and it looked like, ah, after if you will an afterglow type session where people were congregate and talk and once we got out of the car we made contact with people and just told them that they need to leave the area and to move out to the parking lot and to move away from the building and such.
I then asked people maybe to leave, to leave the area cause they were still just hanging around.
source:12/3 interview, p.4
He had people, uh, made contact and told me where they were um and that uh they need to , ah, they need to leave.
source:12/3 interview, p.5
What did you know was a possibility of being on the other side
of the door?
What I was understanding was a, a man who had a knife and he was threatening suicide. And that was, that was my thought and I knew other people in there.
By the At the point when you got to the altar, how many 
people were still left in the church?
ah I say probably anywhere's between at least fifteen to twenty, there still there, they hadn't really left and they had stood up and started, I almost want to say like congregating or mingling like one might do after church service.
source:12/3 interview, p19
It was almost like an afterglow: Church was over so how is things going and that type of um, mixture of people talking and talking maybe about whats on or what I mean there was no panic. It was no crying, there was no oh my God they're all in there, he's got a knife, nothing like that. It was, it was um, extremely serene.
source:12/3 interview, p19
Just the one person passed me and said, you know, please be gentle or please something about that, and you know, he seemed like a sick man, or something, and I said OK, thank you, but you need to leave, please leave.
source:12/3 interview, p20
I didn't notice any panic, I did not notice anyone crying or anything, just a room full of people which I didn't focus much on them, other than focusing on there area bunch of people in there and what's our focus here, where's our subject?
.
William Davies
It appeared that the people were more or less in a ... to me in a docile or a domestic state where they didn't know what to do, and a few of them that were able to gesture to that would like to come out, but others would just like stare at us, like and, and they were maybe in a state of shock.
In actuality a few people asked us what to do and we told them to leave. You know, to get away from the building and stuff but we were actively walking toward the church and we didn't actually stop. We kept going.
We didn't actually stop, we got out of the car, we told people that were accessible to us to leave, you know, and to stay back away from the building and then, you know, we continued to go on in. And the woman we did talk to we told her to stay back and leave the building.
I was trying to get this guy (M Italia) out of here and I recall the suspect saying that "this was his man".
.

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