July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Police audio: Dispatchers asked Elyria man to stand down

King

ELYRIA — An Elyria police dispatcher tried to convince William King to put down his gun and surrender during a tense standoff with police Sunday that ended with three police officers firing at King, fatally wounding him.

Elyria police Lt. Chris Costantino said the call between King, 50, and Dispatcher Fran Ross took place on a phone line that wasn’t recorded, but snippets of the conversation can be heard on recordings of police radio and telephone traffic during the standoff.

King called 911 just after 5 p.m. and told a dispatcher there that he had shot his wife and was going to shoot himself next. “I’m gone,” he said before hanging up.

Elyria police dispatchers almost immediately sent officers to 619 West River Road N., and police had the duplex surrounded by 5:05 p.m., according to time-stamped radio traffic released Tuesday.

At 5:11 p.m., Sgt. William Pelko called dispatchers on the phone and asked them to tell King to surrender.

“I did tell him to come out. William King. But he’s scared. He says his life is over and he’s done,” another dispatcher, identified by police as Elaine Muniga, replied, adding that Ross was on the phone with King.

“Put the gun down, OK?” Ross can be heard saying to King in the background as the call between Pelko and Muniga concluded.

Listen to police audio from the calls:

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A moment later, Donna King, William King’s wife, called the police station and told Muniga who she is, that she hasn’t been shot and that she was 20 minutes away from her house and on her way back.

“He’s hallucinating or whatever,” Donna King said during the call. “I don’t know what he’s doing, but whatever, he did not shoot me.”

Donna King also told the dispatcher which part of the house she shared with her husband and later said William King is an alcoholic and on anti-anxiety medication before Muniga placed her on hold. When she got back on the phone, the dispatcher told Donna King to come to the police station instead of going to her house.

“OK. Can you tell them not to hurt him?” Donna King, who has criticized the shooting of her husband, asked.

“Well, we’re trying to get him to come out,” Muniga replied.

“But he’s not coming out?” Donna King asked as Ross told William King that someone is on the phone with his wife.

Donna King ended the call by telling Muniga that she will call her husband. As the recording concluded, Ross can be heard saying “there’s always a way …” to William King.

When Pelko called back at 5:16 p.m. to get more information, Ross was still on the phone with William King.

“… hurt yourself, but you don’t want to do that to me either,” Ross can be heard saying to William King.

Pelko asked Muniga to find out from Donna King what kind of weapons are in the house and if her husband is alone.

Two minutes later, at 5:18 p.m., a radio call informed officers that “There’s two dogs there and as for the weapons, she’s not entirely sure. Possibly a .22 or a .25 caliber … Also owns a pellet gun that looks like a bigger gun …”

Seconds after that call, Donna King called back and urged police to let a relative talk to her husband.

At 5:22 p.m., William King hung up as Ross told officers to hold their positions.

“All units, can you stand by just a second? I still have him on public service… disregard. He just hung up on me. He knows you’re trying to come in. Break … Also refused to put the gun down,” a dispatcher said over the radio.

At 5:27 p.m., a dispatcher stated over the radio that William King is on the phone again.

“He’s advising he’s going to put the gun down, standby,” a dispatcher stated.

What happened in the next minute or so is unclear from the radio and phone traffic. According to police, William King was outside the house and pointed a handgun first at himself, then at officers.

Costantino said officers Daniel Marsico, Jake Webber and John Matula III fired at King when he turned the gun on police.

King was pronounced dead at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, and the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office has reported that he died from seven gunshot wounds to his torso and extremities.

Police haven’t said how many times the three officers fired, but at 5:29 p.m. a woman who lives on nearby Erie Street calls the police station and says she heard 10 to 12 gunshots from semiautomatic weapons “plain as day.”

Marsico, who has been with the department for nearly nine years, Webber, who joined the force in 2007, and Matula, who has been an Elyria police officer for just over a year, have all been placed on a three-day leave, which is standard procedure in fatal police shootings. None of three officers had any disciplinary action in their personnel files.

Costantino said although the investigation, which is being conducted by Lorain County sheriff’s detectives, is ongoing, he believes the three officers acted properly when they shot King.

“The officers did exactly what they’re trained to do,” Costantino said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.