Police have scheduled a 1:30 p.m. news conference to discuss the fatal shooting of an elderly man who was reportedly hitting a police officer with a cane. The officer was working private security at an apartment complex at 6200 Col. Glenn and was in the company of another officer also working security. They found the man sitting in an apartment with an open door amid broken glass and other signs of disarray. When officers inquired of his well-being, he reportedly rushed the officers.
UPDATE: Police say an investigation continues, but comments so far are supportive of the officers’ actions.
The dead man was identified as Eugene Ellison, 67, who lived in Apt. 213 of the apartment complex. Officers are Donna Lesher and Detective Tabitha McCrillis. Lesher has been on the force for 16 years. McCrillis has been on the force for five years. Both began working in the apartment complex this year. It has been the source of many police calls — more than 100 calls this year including a homicide. The new owner hired police as private security. They have been placed on administrative leave while police investigate. The file will go to the prosecutor’s office for review.
EVENING UPDATE: Checking a report that Ellison was a father of police officers. UPDATE: He was father of current Little Rock narcotics officer and another son recently left the force for a job in Texas.
Lt. Terry Hastings gave an account similar to early reports. The officers saw an open door of the apartment Thursday night and went inside, where they found Ellison sitting in a living room in disarray. He attacked, the officers said. No reason was given. Perhaps he was surprised at the intruders and confused about their identity. They pulled their batons and tried to subdue him with blows. That didn’t work, so he was sprayed twice with pepper spray. He continued to battle.
Hastings said Ellison managed to take the baton from one officer and began using it as a weapon. They called for help. A third policeman arrived, who arrived with siren blaring just in time to witness the shooting from outside on the balcony. Ellison had by then grabbed a heavy wooden cane. He was beating both officers, who were standing side by side, when he was shot. Lesher fired two shots that struck Ellison in the chest.
“Even though the gentleman was 67 years old, he was in very good shape,” Hastings said. He was 6 feet 1 and weighed more than 200 pounds. Asked why officers didn’t shoot him in the leg or some other disabling, but not lethal manner, Hastings replied: “We train our officers to take the threat out.”
Hastings said only supervisors carry Tasers, which stun suspects with an electrical shock. He said the episode will prompt a review into whether all officers should carry them.
Hastings said Ellison was believed to have emotional problems. He turned up in police records 18 years ago. In 1992, he was charged with second-degree battery and fleeing.
— David Koon
Hastings’ written report follows: