Although there is some question as to whether Woody was given any opportunity to surrender once the police arrived, some eyewitnesses think he was. According to an Associated Press story:
|[eyewitness Polly] Wilson said she heard Woodward ordered to drop the knife. I saw he wasn't dropping the knife and I willed him to drop that knife, but he didn't, he didn't, she said. I was startled when I heard police fire.|
If Woody was given an opportunity to surrender, it is clear from eyewitness reports and the timeline of events that the time to act on it was very short.
Woody's failure to surrender, if indeed he was given a chance, is consistent with the fear of torture and execution at the hands of authorities he expressed to the congregation. We will never know whether Woody expected the police to shoot at him in the church in front of witnesses as they did. It is clear that he expected to be tortured and executed without the benefit of witnesses if he were taken into custody.
But while Woody may not have surrendered, neither did he resist arrest. According to one account he had started to take a step to run for the exit when the first bullet hit. He held the knife toward his face as he fell to the floor, continuing to threaten only himself even as he was hit by a barrage of bullets. Woody remained true to his philosophy of non-violence to the end, in the time-honored tradition of civil disobedience stretching from the independence campaign of Mahatma Gandhi, to the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, to the environmental justice struggles of present day activists.