ELYRIA — William King, the Elyria man killed during a standoff with Elyria police on Sunday, died from seven gunshot wounds to his torso and extremities, according to Cuyahoga County Coroner’s spokesman Powell Caesar.
Elyria police Lt. Chris Costantino said Monday that the three Elyria police officers who fired on King after he allegedly pointed a handgun at police surrounding his West River Road North home have been placed on paid leave. Such leaves are standard procedure whenever officers are involved in a fatal shooting, Costantino said.
King, 50, called 911 around 5 p.m. Sunday and told a dispatcher his name several times as she asked whether he needed the police, firefighters or an ambulance. King finally said he needed police and gave his address at 619 West River Road N.
“I shot my wife, and I’m gonna shoot myself,” King told the dispatcher.
“You shot your wife?” the dispatcher asked.
“And I’m gonna shoot myself,” King replied.
“And you’re gonna shoot yourself. Stay on the line for the police, sir,” the dispatcher said. “Do not hang up.”
“I’m gone,” King said before disconnecting.
Officers surrounded King’s house, according to a Police Department news release, but were unable to make contact with him. A police dispatcher eventually was able to get in touch with King and confirm that he was armed.
A short time later, police reported, King came outside with his pistol aimed at himself and failed to respond to police requests to put the gun down. King then allegedly pointed his gun at officers, who shot him, according to the news release.
William King’s wife, Donna, said she was at a festival with relatives when the standoff began and when she heard about it she began heading back to her house. She said she called police while she was on the way and told them she wasn’t in the house.
King was originally taken to EMH Medical Center in Elyria and later flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he was pronounced dead. Caesar said King’s death has been ruled a homicide, which is the case whenever someone dies as the result of another person’s deliberate actions. He said the homicide ruling is not a judgment on whether the actions that led to someone’s death were appropriate.
The shooting is being investigated by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, but sheriff’s Detective Donald Barker said Monday that he couldn’t release any additional information.
However, Elyria police Officer Tom Baracskai, who heads the city’s police union, said based on what he’s learned about the case, he believes the officers involved acted properly.
“It all appears to be above board at this time,” Baracskai said.
Donna King disagrees.
“They just to me were trigger-happy,” she said Monday.
Donna King also complained that police didn’t let her brother-in-law talk to William King. She said that may have led to the situation resolving in a peaceful manner.
“The people who knew Billy knew he had a heart of gold. He had a lot of friends,” Donna King said. “They killed my husband. He was the love of my life.”
Donna King said she didn’t know what prompted her husband, who had cirrhosis of the liver, to call 911 and make the claims he did. She said William King had been taking nerve pills and antidepressants recently while he was trying to quit drinking.
Caesar said toxicology tests on William King have not been completed.
Donna King said police could have handled the standoff better. She pointed to the 2004 standoff between Anthony Horton and police on East 14th Street. She said despite Horton firing at officers and shooting the grandmother of his children, police were able to negotiate a peaceful end to the standoff.
Horton is incarcerated and set to be released from prison in 2019, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction website.
Even if police couldn’t convince her husband to surrender, Donna King said officers didn’t need to fatally shoot him. She said they should have shot the gun out of his hand or shot him in the leg.
Baracskai said police aren’t unsympathetic to the loss with which Donna King and her family are dealing.
“We feel for the family and are happy for the families of the officers that no officers were hurt,” he said.
This is the second time that Elyria police have fatally shot someone in recent years. Officers Donald Moss and Jay Loesch shot and killed Ronald Palmer on March 15, 2010, after he gunned down Elyria police Sgt. James Kerstetter, who was responding to a neighborhood disturbance call.
A county grand jury ruled that Moss and Loesch acted properly.
The Lorain County Sheriff’s Office handled the Palmer investigation and is reviewing the June shooting of Jarelle Guice by Lorain police officers. Guice allegedly shot at police, who returned fire, striking him several times.
Guice survived his injuries and is being held in the Lorain County Jail.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.