Police killed their son and saved their lives in tense confrontation
4:05 p.m. Feb. 21, 2015 Indianapolis
On a snowy Saturday, Officer Roman Williams-Ervin frantically tried to kick down the front door of the Norman family’s home. Someone had called 911 from inside the house. All dispatchers could hear was screaming and shouting.
Williams-Ervin broke a window and reached inside to unlock the door, but the lock was jammed. He kicked again, and the door finally gave way. He and another officer stormed inside the three-bedroom home, not sure what they’d find.
Inside the kitchen, Kent Norman, 51, held a butcher knife to the neck of his 74-year-old mother, Mary Jane. His 78-year-old father lay slumped nearby.
“The only way I could describe it is three bodies all tangled up together and blood on all of them,” said Williams-Ervin, an eight-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. “I knew someone would die if I didn’t take action. It all happened so fast.”
The officers ordered Kent to drop the knife. He refused.
“It was a decision that had to be made,” said Williams-Ervin, 31. “I gave Kent options, and he didn’t take those options.”
The officers opened fire, shooting seven times. Kent was shot in the chest and died almost instantly.
The fatal shooting of Kent Norman is one of at least 129 by police officers this year that involved individuals who committed attacks with weapons other than guns, including knives, hatchets, vehicles and bare hands.
Throughout his childhood and adult life, Kent Norman struggled with mental illness, his family said. He lived with his parents and often ran errands and helped them with chores. In the weeks leading up to his death, his depression deepened, they said.
Mary Jane said Kent had been drinking that Saturday. He suddenly started cursing and grabbed her hair, pummeled her with his fists and pressed her face to the granite countertop. John tried to pry his son off Mary Jane, but Kent knocked him unconscious.
“Our inability to properly treat mental illness is what forces police officers everywhere to take the lives of so many,” Mary Jane said. “We loved our son so very much.”
After the attack, John suffered a subdural hematoma, and Mary Jane had scrapes, bruises and heart problems caused by acute stress. With the increasing critical coverage of police shootings, family friends told them that some people were beginning to wonder: Had the officers shot Kent for no good reason?
“We said, ‘No, that can’t stand,’ ” Mary Jane said. From their hospital beds, Mary Jane and John crafted a statement for the media. Through a family spokesman, they thanked the officers for saving their lives.
The police department and prosecutor’s office cleared the two officers of any wrongdoing.
Later, the Norman family met with the officers, and Mary Jane hugged them.
“We didn’t want them to second-guess themselves,” she said. “You have to make life-or-death decisions. A moment’s pause could cause the death of an innocent victim or themselves.”
As for Williams-Ervin, he said he is also at peace with the final outcome.
“In my mind, I break it down like I did my job,” the officer said. “If I hadn’t taken this action, then these other folks would be dead.”
John and Mary Jane Norman hold a photograph of their son, Kent, at their home in Indianapolis. Police killed Kent after he held a knife to Mary Jane’s throat in February.