Agencies: Kenner Police Department Louisiana
Last updated: 3 months ago
A 25-year-old man suffering from mental health issues was holding butter knives and posed no threat to officers when he was fatally shot by Kenner police Monday (Jan. 23), family members and witnesses said Tuesday.
They disputed the police's account that Armond Jairon Brown was a threat and that he was shot shortly after 4 p.m. only as he approached a police officer armed with two knives at the end of an hours-long standoff. Police said Brown was shot three times in the front yard of the family's home in the 300 block of Webster Street. He was taken to University Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
"He was battling with a mental situation. Yes, he needed help, but he didn't need to be killed like a dog," said his mother Jaronet Whitaker Vital.
Kenner Police Chief Michael Glaser said officers were called to the house around 11:37 a.m. Monday by Brown's brother, who said his sibling was not taking his medication and had threatened him with a knife. Officers attempted to subdue Brown using a variety of non-lethal weapons, including a Taser stun gun, rubber-like ammunition and tear gas grenades, Glaser said. When those methods failed, and when Brown, armed with knives, advanced within three feet of police, they were forced to use live rounds, the chief said.
At least five family members and several neighbors who said they witnessed the incident described a different scene. They said when Brown was gunned down, he was armed with nothing more than butter knives, was at least 15 feet away from police, and that he and the officers toward whom he was walking were separated by a brick wall, a wrought iron gate, a mattress officers propped up to use as a shield, and a parked car.
A neighbor, who declined to give her name, said she watched the shooting from the second-floor balcony of her home which is located on the same side of the street as Brown's house. She said there were three SWAT officers positioned inside the Browns' front yard next to a brick wall that ran along the side of the residence. Brown was walking towards the front gate, not towards the SWAT officers, when they shot him, she said.
Brown's father, Armond Brown, said police had promised they wouldn't use lethal force.
"They say. 'We're going to wait him out Mr. Brown. We're going to make him as uncomfortable as possible, turn the lights off, turn the water off. We're going to wait him out. I promise you Mr. Brown. We've been doing this for 30 years. We're not going to hurt him. If we do shoot him, we're going to shoot him with bean bags,'" the father said as the family gathered Tuesday afternoon in Vital's home, a few blocks away from the scene.
"They shot tear gas in the house. All over the house. Jairon comes out of the house and they shoot him when he gets by the gate," the father said.
Jairon Brown, as his family referred to him, was a 2009 graduate of Grace King High School and lived with his father and brother, Joshua Brown, in the two-story brick house in the middle of their Webster Street block.
Family members said he had struggled with mental illness. They previously filed records with the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office seeking help for Brown, Glaser said. Those records indicate Brown suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the chief said. Glaser said police had been called to the residence 22 times since January 2015.
Those calls included Sunday evening, the night before Brown was killed, when police were told Brown had tried to stab his father, Glaser said.
The family declined to discuss the Sunday incident Glaser mentioned. In a series of Facebook posts early Monday morning, Brown wrote, "I wasnt gonna stop hittin him. I was gonna kill em. I had mercy." He then wrote, "I act like i was about to stab em just in time i turned the knife it broke and i start beating him up." It's unclear whether those posts were in reference to the alleged Sunday incident with his father.
When officers were called again on Monday morning, Brown was locked inside the family home by himself, police said. His brother told police that he had stopped taking his medication and "was talking about having spiritual powers," police said.
Glaser said Brown ignored pleas to surrender from family members, officers and a SWAT team negotiator. Police then entered the home and found Brown standing in the foyer holding two knives. After Brown again ignored their requests for him to surrender, police shot him several times with "impact munition," a non-lethal projectile made up of a hard sponge material, Glaser said. He also said officers used a Taser on Brown.
The chief said Brown did not respond or disarm.
At 2:20 p.m., Brown posted on Facebook, "They shot me. But i aint feel it. Twice more," in apparent reference to the police use of the "impact munition."
Brown was listed on his drivers' license as 6-foot-tall and 165 pounds, police said, though family members said he weighed no more than 140 pounds.
About 4 p.m., officers fired multiple tear gas grenades through the second-floor windows on either side of the house, forcing Brown outside. Glaser said police hit Brown again with the impact munition and Taser once he walked outside and began "advancing toward" the officers. The chief said again the non-lethal measures had no effect.
When Brown, still armed with two knives, approached within three feet of an officer who was using non-lethal force, another officer providing cover shot Brown with live ammunition four times, hitting him in the leg, groin and abdomen, Glaser said.
Michelle Lee, Brown's cousin, lives in the neighboring house and gave a different account. She said that when Brown exited the house, he was standing in the middle of the 15-foot tiled walkway that runs from the home's front door to the wrought iron gate which opens up to the sidewalk.
The officers were on the other side of the gate, which was closed, crouched behind a mattress that was propped up against a parked car, Lee said. Brown never got within 10 feet of the police when he was shot to death, she said.
Brown's uncle, Ronnie Brown, provided a similar account.
"He came out the house and he was here talking about the bible," Ronnie Brown said, standing in the middle of the walkway. "(Brown) started walking and the (officer) said, 'Stop.' And Jairon got somewhere around here and that's when they shot him. When he come out the house (the officers) backed up and got behind the fence. There was no threat because you got a barricade here."
Both Lee and Ronnie Brown said Jairon Brown was holding butter knives. Glaser on Tuesday said he didn't know what type of knives Brown was armed with when he was shot by police.
The neighbor who watched the shooting from the second-floor of her home said the three SWAT officers positioned inside the Brown family's front yard were located by the brick wall running along the riverside of the home, which is about 10 feet from the walkway.
"Jairon walked out and before he could get out to the front gate, pow, pow, pow. They were ready. They were ready," she said, crying. "They said he had knives in his hands. I didn't see nothing in his hands."
After Brown fell to the ground, the neighbor said an officer started walking up and down the street telling residents they could calm down because officers didn't use live rounds.
"He said it's bean bags. They told me to calm down. I was like, 'Please don't shoot him. Please don't shot him no more. When they said it was bean bags, I calmed down. But when he fell, he didn't move. He didn't do anything."
Glaser said the officer who fatally shot Brown has been with the department since 2010 and this was the first time he fired his department weapon. Glaser declined to name the officer Tuesday, saying he was being interviewed by investigators and undergoing debriefings for officers after they have to use force.
An internal investigation of the shooting is ongoing, Glaser said, and findings will be forwarded to the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office. The chief said he believes the fatal use of force was justified.
Kenner's police force does not have body-worn cameras, said department spokesman Lt. Brian McGregor. Cameras are also not used in squad cars expect for those cars assigned to the traffic division. None of those cars were at the scene of this incident, McGregor said.
Another resident, who also declined to give her name, said the incident has shattered her trust in police.
"They knew he had issues. They knew he had problems. They have been here on numerous occasions so why would they call a SWAT team? He didn't have a hostage in the house. He wasn't harming nobody. He was there alone," she said. "You promised his parents you weren't going to hurt him."