Gwinnett officer cleared in double-shooting

An internal investigation report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the fatal shooting of Schwartz and her 74-year-old mother Barbara Baker concluded Officer Lyndsey Perry was not at fault for pulling the trigger on July 21, 2009. Schwartz, 51, previously had threatened to commit "suicide by cop," and pointed a revolver at the officer.

Questions persist why the officer was put in a deadly situation for which she was unprepared and without backup.

In a 911 center radio traffic tape obtained by the AJC through an Open Records request, the dispatcher told Perry the threat involved suicide by pills. Traveling to the scene, Perry asked the dispatcher, "Is the subject 69 [armed with a gun]?"

The dispatcher replied, "Ten, seventy-four [negative], complaintants are advising no guns in the house." Perry next told the 911 operator that the computer-assisted dispatch stated the subject was threatening to shoot herself. The dispatcher responded, "Ten, four [correct], however she is advising there are no weapons in the house."

For that reason, Perry went inside the family's Duluth house alone with her gun holstered.

Gwinnett police are conducting an investigation into potential procedural or policy violations committed by 911 personnel, Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli said.

Perry told investigators that Baker invited her into the home and immediately warned, "My daughter has a gun and she is going to shoot you; you have to shoot her." That's when Perry unholstered her firearm.

Moments later, Perry heard Schwartz clomping heavily down the stairs, cursing and calling out, "Are they there? Are they there yet?"

Schwartz came around a corner at the base of the stairs with a revolver trained on the officer. Perry opened fire, discharging five rounds. The officer couldn't recall how Baker was shot. The investigator's report said that was understandable, since her attention was on the threat posed by Schwartz.

Baker died instantly of a single gunshot wound to the chest. She fell to the floor where a stairway, hallway and kitchen converge. Baker could have emerged from one of several entrances and entered the line of fire, the report stated. Perry was forced to react quickly.

"To have withheld her fire in order to maneuver to a different position would likely have resulted in Officer Perry's death," the report said.

Among the investigators' findings, Perry was distraught and shaking immediately after the shooting.

Schwartz died later at Gwinnett Medical Center. Her mother was dead at the scene.

Family members and neighbors told police that Schwartz had threatened suicide before, had a history of methamphetamine abuse and suffered from Crohn's disease. A blood test determined Schwartz was under the influence of amphetamines when she died.

Perry, a 10-year veteran, was put on administrative leave after the shooting. However, she returned to work two weeks after a psychiatrist cleared her and she remains on the job, Schiralli said.

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