Washington Jail Officer Shoots and Kills 70-Year-Old Woman in Building's Lobby
"Sure, a homeless person can seem scary, but it’s hard to picture someone that small and elderly being a threat to a corrections officer," Nancy King's nephew said
An elderly woman is dead after she was shot in the lobby of a jail in Spokane, Washington, over the weekend.
Nancy King, 70, was shot and killed on December 4 at the Spokane County Jail, the Spokane County Medical Examiner announced in a press release. Nancy's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and her manner of death was determined to be a homicide.
Corrections sergeant Justin White has been named by a county spokesperson as the officer who shot Nancy, according to local news outlet KXLY.com. He was placed on administrative leave, per a press release from Spokane County. No charges have been filed.
Nancy's nephew, Jack King, told the Spokesman-Review that his aunt struggled with alcoholism and mental illness, but she wasn't a threat.
"I’m pro-law enforcement and I’m a law-and-order type person," Jack said. "But a 70-year-old woman who weighs 110 pounds probably isn’t a threat to a corrections officer who knows how to handle prisoners."
"It’s rough, and it’s just hard to think about how her life ended," Jack said. "It’s really hard to picture that, but it was a cold night. I don’t know if she was having a mental breakdown or if she was just freezing to death and looking for someplace warm to go."
"Sure, a homeless person can seem scary, but it’s hard to picture someone that small and elderly being a threat to a corrections officer," he added.
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According to jail director Mike Sparber, Nancy was attempting to enter the jail's lobby and repeatedly pounding on the door, the Spokesman-Review reported. Eventually, the receptionist unlocked the door, and Nancy entered the building.
A press release from Spokane County said that Nancy "displayed a knife and moved aggressively towards the Corrections Officer. While retreating, the officer attempted to provide commands to drop the knife. He drew his weapon and with the female still moving towards his position, as she failed to respond to his orders. The Corrections Officer then fired his weapon, striking the female."
Though life-saving measures were conducted by additional correctional officers and the Spokane City Fire Department, Nancy was pronounced dead on the scene.
Sparber did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
The Spokane Independent Investigative Response (SIIR) is conducting an independent investigation into the shooting, led by he Washington State Patrol. When reached by PEOPLE Wednesday, the WSP shared a press release stating the witness interviews are still being conducted.
The shooting death of Nancy — who was not incarcerated — has angered local community members.
The Spokane NAACP issued a statement on the shooting on Saturday, calling for the end of the "blatant disregard for the personal rights and safety of those within the corrections system is not limited to the egregious murders of justice involved and impacted community members, but includes the lack of correct, timely, or appropriate COVID19 prevention and response."
"This is not the first time that a member of our community has died at the Spokane County Jail, incarcerated or otherwise, and this event brings to light the other lethal mishandlings within our local and statewide jails, incarceration institutions, law enforcement, and Department of Corrections," the statement said.