Parents of an Alabama woman shot and killed by police are lambasting the officers for opening fire on their daughter after they called 911 for help to get her to a mental hospital.
"Instead the police ended up putting a bullet in her," the parents of 36-year-old Melissa Boarts said in a statement provided by their attorney.
Boarts, of Montgomery, was killed Sunday afternoon by Auburn police officers after her parents called to report she was driving an SUV on Interstate 85 and threatening to kill herself. Police later said the driver pulled over and got out of her vehicle "armed with a weapon and charged the officers in a threatening manner." The officers shot and killed her.
Julian McPhillips, an attorney hired by Boarts' family, said the woman was armed with a pocket knife.
Her father told news outlets Monday his daughter's slaying by police was "outrageous and asinine."
"There was absolutely no justification for it and we are all in deep mourning," said Michael Boarts, a former officer for the Alabama Department of Corrections.
Auburn police Chief Paul Register said video from the officers' dash and body cameras has been turned over to the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting. He said he believes the evidence will show the shooting was justified.
"This was obviously a tragic situation for the family, as well as the officers and their families," Register said. "We're confident that once the facts are presented to a grand jury, the community will understand the actions of the officers."
The police chief said his officers had undergone training in the last month on dealing with people experiencing mental problems. He said his command staff had met with Boarts' family and offered their sympathies.
Boarts' mother, Terry Boarts, said she called 911 Sunday after her daughter left home and headed east toward Auburn on Interstate 85. She said her daughter had been diagnosed a bipolar manic depressive and was threatening to cut her wrists with a knife.
Police followed Boarts for several miles as she left the interstate and eventually pulled over on a road in Macon County, where she was killed. Macon County Coroner Hal Bentley said Boarts died from a single gunshot wound.
The incident comes amid a national debate and increased scrutiny over police treatment of black people and several deaths that have made international headlines. Boarts was white. The officers involved in the shooting have not been identified, and their races were not immediately known.
McPhillips, the Boarts family's attorney, said they plan to pursue legal action. He said he's requested copies of the dash and body camera videos, which had not been shared with the family.
"We just think it was so unnecessary," McPhillips said. "She had a pocket knife on her, and she's only 5 feet 4, maybe 130 pounds against these big old husky law enforcement officers. They could have Tased her or used a stick or something. They didn't need to shoot her."