Questions persist after Arkansas SWAT team fatally shoots 107-year-old man
The Associated Press
Published Monday, September 9, 2013 8:29PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 9, 2013 10:50PM EDT
PINE BLUFF, Ark. -- When the time came to move 107-year-old Monroe Isadore to a new home, police say he resisted and barricaded himself inside. Authorities tried using negotiating tactics, a camera, and finally gas to get him to come out.
None of it worked.
So, a police commando team went inside and was greeted by gunfire, authorities say. The team fired back, and Isadore died.
The weekend confrontation raised a flurry of questions Monday as residents struggled to make sense of how someone known as a pleasant, churchgoing man who was hard of hearing and sometimes carried a cane had died in an explosive confrontation. Did authorities know how old he was? Did they follow proper procedure? Could they have done anything differently?
"It's just a big puzzle," said Ivory Perry, who has known Isadore for decades.
The standoff began Saturday, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press. Laurie Barlow, 48, told officers she had gone to the house where Isadore was living temporarily to help him move to a new home.
She said Isadore had previously been excited about the move but that when she arrived Isadore barricaded himself in a room.
"Ms. Barlow stated his granddaughter finally got him to open the door and she went around to speak with Mr. Isadore, at that time she stated Mr. Isadore raised his arm and pointed a gun at her and stated 'You better stop breaking in to my house,"' the report said.
After police moved Barlow and the granddaughter across the street, Isadore fired at a door moments after police tried to contact him. A police commando team, called out when negotiations failed, manoeuvred a camera into the house to see how Isadore was armed, then stormed inside after deploying gas and a distraction device, the report said. When Isadore fired, the entry team fired back.
Police Sgt. David DeFoor said Monday that Isadore had been living at the home temporarily, but did not go into more detail. The sergeant also said officers may not have been aware of the man's age.
"The only thing they knew that I'm aware of was that he was older," DeFoor said.
Prosecutors are expected to review whether police reacted appropriately.
Crime is not uncommon in this community of about 50,000 people some 45 miles (72 kilometres) southeast of Little Rock, where prisons house hundreds of inmates and signs caution drivers against picking up hitchhikers.
But in Isadore's old neighbourhood, where he lived until several months ago, friends recalled him as a pleasant and active man. He mowed lawns in his advanced years and kept a vegetable garden, often sharing its bounty.
"I thought he was a good, old guy because he would always talk to us and go to church every Sunday," said Dwayne Grant, 50. Grant recalled that Isadore tilled the garden himself -- though Monday the plot stood empty, as if it yielded no crop this year.
Robert and Ivory Perry said they had known Isadore for more than 20 years.
"Everybody knows Mr. Isadore," said Robert Perry, 76.
His wife, Ivory Perry, 65, said Isadore had done his own cooking -- she recalled neck bones and rice pudding -- and talked about religion.
"I just don't understand how this happened," she said.
Neither Grant nor the Perrys knew Isadore had access to a gun.
"I believe if somebody had told them that he was a 107-year-old man in that house, even with a gun, I don't believe they would have laid down fire on him," Robert Perry said.
And Grant said the violence seemed very out of character for Isadore.
"I couldn't believe it myself," he said. "The guy, he was 107 years old. I mean, come on."