Po­lice killed their son and saved their lives in tense con­fronta­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - FROM PAGE ONE - — Amy Brit­tain More on­line: Read about fa­tal con­fronta­tions in Florida and Ok­la­homa at wapo.st/po­lice-sto­ries.

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.

Kent Nor­man

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