Marchers decry shooting (March 7, 2006)

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– by Alan Morrell, Staff Writer –
Democrat and Chronicle.

Protesters and activists marched on the Public Safety Building on Monday, demanding answers to why Rochester police fatally shot a mentally distraught woman in her home last week.

Patricia Thompson, 54, was shot early Friday after she lunged at police who were called to her house at 199 Weldon St. Her husband, Nathaniel Thompson, had called police to say he was having problems with his wife.

Officer Jeffrey LaFave fired once at Thompson after police said she came at him with a knife. Nathaniel Thompson, who was at Monday’s protest, agreed that his wife lunged at LaFave, but he now says she did not have a knife.

“I call police to get help,” he said, surrounded by about a dozen protesters. “I called them to take her to the hospital. I never called them to kill her.”

In question has been why police did not deploy the Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team, a squad of officers specially trained to deal with people with mental issues. Acting Police Chief Timothy Hickey said during a news conference Friday that police have been to the Thompson home nine times over the years, often to address Patricia Thompson’s mental condition, for which she took medication.

“Where was the team?” Pastor Joy Powell-Weh said through a bullhorn in front of the Public Safety Building on Monday.

Powell-Weh approached officers who exited the Public Safety Building and appealed to Hickey to respond. Officer Kate Springer, the department spokeswoman, said later that Hickey would not comment.

The specially trained officers were not used because the 911 call came in as a domestic dispute, the police chief said at a previous news conference.

A spokesman for the city-county Emergency Communications Department said it’s rare for an address to be flagged as having past involvement with the team.

Those answers were not good enough for Shirley Thompson, 20, one of Patricia Thompson’s daughters. Shirley witnessed her mother’s death.

“We can’t sleep at night,” she said. “We’re grieving. Can’t nothing bring her back.”