Policemen suffer from shooting, too

Most of us don’t know what exactly happened in Room 18 at the Timbers Motel on North Avenue on Sunday, Feb. 28. Only three people know, and one of them is dead. The three were in the room. Two of them were Grand Junction police officers and one was 39-year-old Brent Ingram, who died that day after being shot twice in the chest by police.

Let’s be clear: Ingram was no saint.

His criminal resume may not have been the stuff that’s sends people to hard time, but he wasn’t likely to be named Father and Husband of the Year any time soon.

He was serving a two-year probation after pleading guilty last spring to domestic violence. But he wasn’t living up to his end of the deal. A warrant was issued for his arrest last month after he failed to show up for a meeting with his probation officer and didn’t pay $235 in fines and court costs. Nor did he attend the required domestic violence classes. He also had a drinking and driving problem.

Back to the afternoon of Feb. 28.

Police went to the motel after they had been called by an employee who said Ingram was drunk. The matter may have ended there had police not done some research and discovered outstanding warrants for his arrest.

Two officers went into his room, where they met Ingram brandishing a knife.

I don’t know what the protocol is for police when they encounter someone threatening them with a weapon. But the eventual outcome that day was Ingram’s death.

Two days later comes Mr. Ingram’s widow, complaining that they didn’t have to kill her husband. They could have shot him in the leg, instead. Or the arm. Or fired a warning shot. Or talked him out of the knife. There was no reason for the police to overreact as they did, she said. They shouldn’t have killed her knife-wielding husband. What is she to do now?

Ingram certainly has her own problems.

Missing in this story is what two Grand Junction police officers are dealing with. I think we should worry more about them than about the Ingram family.

The two, who have not been identified per police department policy, are on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation into the shooting. If they were at fault, then they will have to deal with the consequences. Police Chief John Camper, in his short tenure in Grand Junction, has made it abundantly clear that he will preside over nothing less than a squeaky clean police department. We can be confident that any investigation into his officers’ actions will be thorough and it will be fair.

There is much we don’t know, and the outcome of the internal investigation may turn out otherwise, but it appears from what we do know that the police were simply doing what we pay them to do. Their actions that Sunday afternoon may have been tragic, but they also made this community a little safer place for the rest of us. Let’s thank them for that.

Assuming their actions are deemed justifiable — I admit that I hope that is the case — then let’s be at least as sympathetic for them as we are for Mrs. Ingram. Police Department policy forbids the two from seeking their 15 minutes of fame in the media. That doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with the trauma every bit as much as anyone else involved in the incident.

Officers who have had to kill someone in the line of duty report sleep problems, nightmares, flashbacks, depression and feelings of helplessness. In some cases they are unable to return to work. In others, it can lead to marital and family problems.

Many of those problems can be alleviated with professional help and peer and community support. I assume the Grand Junction Police Department is equipped to provide that level of support for the two officers who answered the call to the Timbers Motel on Feb. 28.

We’ll owe them that, at the very least.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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