The commands to halt didn’t stop Joe Lawson.
Neither did the furniture thrown in his path, nor the first bullet entering his body.
It took a second shot to knock down the 41-year-old north Spokane man Tuesday afternoon. Once down, he never got up.
While the victim’s wife and young son watched, a veteran police officer shot and killed the knife-wielding Lawson, authorities said.
Spokane County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the shooting, but initial reports indicate the officer was justified, police Capt. Roger Bragdon said.
“There were innocent people who were in danger,” Bragdon said. “The officer tried his verbal commands. He tried to retreat. He did everything we trained him to do. He had absolutely no choice but to defend himself.”
The shooter, whose name wasn’t released, is an experienced officer who moved to Spokane a few years ago from Southern California, where he also worked as a policeman, authorities said.
He and the officer who backed him up Tuesday likely will be on administrative leave until the investigation is completed, Bragdon said.
The two also will receive counseling. “They’re under a lot of stress,” Bragdon said.
The shooting occurred about 4 p.m. in the front room of a yellow house in the 1400 block of North Altamont, just a block west of Chief Garry Park.
Two patrolmen went to the home about 3:30 p.m. after someone reported a man and his wife fighting there, authorities said. Neighbors said they saw Lawson and his wife, Sharon, arguing in their front yard about 2 p.m.
One officer went in the house while the other officer waited outside, Bragdon said.
Lawson wasn’t inside when the patrolmen arrived. He showed up outside the front door minutes later with a “large, long knife,” Bragdon said.
The officer on the street told Lawson not to go in, but Lawson ignored him, Bragdon said.
Once in the house, Lawson advanced on the first patrolman, who was interviewing Sharon Lawson and two other people, including the couple’s 7-year-old son.
He ignored the officer’s commands to stop and stepped around furniture the patrolman pushed in his way, Chief Terry Mangan said. “He lunged at him and refused to put down the weapon,” Mangan said.
The officer, fearing for his own safety and that of the other people inside, fired one shot that hit Lawson, Bragdon said.
The wounded man kept coming, so the officer fired again and Lawson “went down,” Mangan said.
Lawson died on the living room floor. His body remained inside the house for several hours while detectives gathered clues.
Police weren’t sure what set Lawson off, but relatives speculated the unemployed man had been drinking earlier in the day.
“That’s the only thing I can think of that would make him do something like that,” said Marcia Davis, his sister-in-law.
Another sister-in-law, Teri Harler, said Lawson and her sister enjoyed a good marriage until recently. The two got into a fight about three weeks ago and exchanged slaps, Harler said.
“Joe used to be a good guy,” she said. “They’d been together for years and years.”
Harler said her sister called her on the telephone shortly before the shooting and told her Lawson had kicked and choked her that afternoon. Harler said he also tried to run over Sharon Lawson with his car.
“She was just hysterical,” Harler said.
Harler, who lives about a block away from her sister, said she called Sharon Lawson back about 15 minutes later to check on her. “She said, ‘Get down here. They shot him. They shot him. The police shot Joe.”’ A fracas started when Harler and her brother, Fred Anderson, arrived on the scene.
Authorities said Anderson refused to cooperate with police and assaulted an officer who was trying to lead him back to his car.
A patrolman used pepper spray on Anderson while several others subdued the burly man, Mangan said.
Harler said police attacked her brother, who is mentally retarded, for no reason and used unnecessary force.
“They were on Fred like white on rice,” she said. “He was just trying to leave. He didn’t do anything.”
Anderson was hurt in the scuffle, but the extent of his injuries wasn’t known late Tuesday. Mangan said he wasn’t sure if Anderson would be arrested.
Davis said she hopes the police leave the man alone. Her family suffered enough trauma Tuesday, she said.
“My 7-year-old nephew doesn’t have a dad,” Davis said. “My sister doesn’t have her husband. That was all she had.”
Staff writer Kevin Blocker contributed to this report.
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