A Duluth woman was shot four times and her elderly mother once during a confrontation this week with a Gwinnett County police officer, according to autopsies released Friday.
Gwinnett County police officer Lyndsey K. Perry, a 10-year veteran of the department, shot 51-year-old Penny Schwartz in both arms and twice in her side, according to her autopsy. Schwartz’s mother, Barbara Baker, 74, was shot once in the chest.
The shootings occurred Tuesday after police were dispatched to handle a suicide threat at Baker’s home in Duluth. Baker called 911 alleging that her daughter had threatened to kill herself. Schwartz also told her mother she wanted police to shoot her, but Perry didn’t know that when she arrived at the scene, said Cpl. Illana Spellman, a Gwinnett police spokeswoman.
Shortly after Perry arrived and began speaking to Baker, Schwartz came downstairs and brandished a gun, Spellman said. Feeling threatened, the officer opened fire.
Perry could not be reached for comment Friday. Police said she was distraught and shaking immediately after the shooting.
WSB radio reported Friday morning that Perry posted a statement on her Facebook page saying she was at peace with what she did. Perry’s profile seemed to have vanished several hours later, though, when a search on Facebook produced zero results.
Officers often struggle with the emotional aftermath of such encounters, agonizing over whether they did the right thing or responded correctly to what was happening, said James Drylie, who co-wrote a book focusing on the problem called “Copicide.”
“Cops are trained to control the situation,” said Drylie, chairman of the criminal justice department at Kean University in Union, N.J. “Suicide by cop takes that control away from you.”
About a third of officer-involved shootings can be classified as suicide by cop, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.
The Gwinnett County Police Department does not keep statistics on suicide-by-cop incidents or attempts. However, the department recorded seven officer-involved shootings in 2007, six in 2008 and four so far this year.
Researcher Kris Mohandie, who conducted the study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, said females who involve themselves in deadly force encounters are more likely to be suicidal than males. For women, 57 percent of officer-involved shootings are believed to be suicide by cop.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com