Police call slaying of distraught woman justified

January 15, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police officials said the fatal shooting of a mentally ill woman Friday by two city officers appears to have been justified, although it will be about a week before an internal investigation is finished.

The woman, Betty Keat, 64, continued to advance toward the officers with a steak knife after they sprayed tear gas in her face twice and yelled for her to halt, police said.

The officers had gone to Mrs. Keat's home in the 300 block of Taplow Road after neighbors said she threw a flammable liquid on their lawns.

"The pepper Mace we use is very strong and would generally stop the threat of an average person, but in this case it didn't have any effect on her demeanor or her aggressive actions," said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a city police spokesman.

Police said tear gas -- which temporarily blinds and induces coughing -- sometimes is ineffective against people who are extremely agitated.

Mrs. Keat had a history of mental problems and had been hospitalized at Springfield Hospital Center, a psychiatric facility, more than a dozen times, according to relatives.

Police went to her house to respond to complaints of her irrational behavior and to investigate a gasolinelike odor coming from inside her home.

Mrs. Keat reacted angrily to the four officers who came into her home. The confrontation occurred in the dimly lighted living room, police said.

The two officers who each fired a bullet -- Manuel Eldridge Jr., 26, and Scott Dickson, 24 -- will remain on administrative duties until the investigation is complete. But Agent Weinhold said the officers seemed to have followed the police department's directives on deadly force.

"In order to stop the immediate threat of force, they resorted to an escalation of their own force," Agent Weinhold said. "They used verbal orders and then Mace and then firearms. That is the proper procedure that they are taught."

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