Police: Teenage robbery suspect shot and killed by officers after she refused to drop gun

By Meg Kinnard, Gaea News Network
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Teen robbery suspect killed in SC police shooting

ROCK HILL, S.C. — A police chief said Friday he thinks officers were justified when they shot a 15-year-old girl suspected of robbing a store at gunpoint, comments that left the teen’s relatives expressing outrage as they planned her funeral.

“She ain’t nothing but a baby,” Tia Williams said about her slain cousin. “She ain’t even made it to 18 yet.”

Yvette Williams was shot and killed Thursday afternoon moments after authorities say she robbed a grocery store in this community about 25 miles south of Charlotte, N.C.

Two officers fired on Williams after she pointed a gun at them and refused to drop it, Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory said. He said he felt the police response was justified.

“I am satisfied with what I’ve seen thus far,” Gregory said at a news conference Friday. “These officers have a great reputation in the Rock Hill Police Department.”

Since Thursday’s shooting, officers Carlos Culbreath and Claude McCarley have been placed on paid leave. The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating.

Gregory refused to answer many questions Friday.

“It’s a regrettable set of circumstances,” Gregory said. “I can only imagine how the community feels about this.”

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast has not said how many times the girl was shot.

At the grocery, an employee who was working at the time of the robbery said the teenager had a handgun tucked in the waistband of her denim shorts. He said he did everything to keep Williams calm.

“Don’t pull the trigger,” Lorenzo Wells, 28, said he told the teen, adding the suspect pulled out the gun and pointed it at the store manager. “She’ll give you everything out of the register.”

After saying “thank you” for the several hundred dollars the manager took from the register and shoving the gun back in her shorts, Williams left, walking and then jogging into the store parking lot, Wells said.

Moments later, he heard shots.

“All I know is I heard five shots,” said Wells, who was on the phone with police at the time. “The first three were like, pop, pop, pop! And then maybe a couple seconds later you just heard, pop, pop.”

In a nearby neighborhood where Williams lived, members of her large, closely knit family said they were in shock over the teen’s sudden death and the police reaction to events.

“She didn’t shoot at them,” Tia Williams said of her cousin, adding the dead teenager was in the eighth grade. “Why did they shoot at her? … If they wanted to just stop her, all they had to do is just shoot her in the leg or something.”

Tia Williams, sifting through family photos while sitting on the stoop of the teen’s home with several other cousins, said the 15-year-old was not a gang member and did not have a criminal record — but police had no comment on those matters, citing her age.

Williams’ mother was making arrangements for a funeral likely to be held Tuesday, Tia Williams said.

Associated Press Writer Katrina A. Goggins contributed to this report from Columbia, S.C.

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