(For the latest update to the Kristiana Coingard story, as of August 4, please scroll to bottom.)
Kristiana Coignard, a 17-year-old girl who until recently had been a high school student in Longview, Texas, walked into the Longview Police Station at about 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evening. She picked up the courtesy phone for after-hours visitors and asked to speak to an officer. Moments later, she was dead — shot “multiple times” by police
But why? Three officers have been placed on paid leave by the Longview Police Department in connection with the shooting that killed Kristiana before her life had a chance to begin. What led them to open fire on the lone teenage girl remains unclear.
UPDATES: Surveillance video of the Kristiana Coignard killing has now been released. The full video may be viewed at this link, or seen below. Audio of the teen’s final phone calls from the courtesy phone in the police station lobby has also been released and can be heard at this link. The video appears to show that officers had the slightly-built teen restrained, but somehow let her go — and then shot her.
According to police, when the officers went out to the lobby in the police station located at 302 West Cotton Street, in the East Texas city of about 80,000, Coignard “came at” the officers with some sort of weapon.
Neither Longview police nor the Texas Rangers, who are now in charge of investigating the fatal shooting, would say what the alleged weapon actually was. But Longview Mayor Jay Dean described the slain teen as “a female wielding a knife.”
“When police arrived to assist her, that’s when she confronted them,” said police spokesperson Kristie Brian, quoted in the Longview News-Journal newspaper. “She did brandish a weapon. I don’t know what kind it was. She came at the officers and was shot.”
Calls made from the lobby courtesy phone are recorded, just like 911 emergency calls, but police have not released the recording of Coignard’s brief call from the lobby, nor have they commented on what the teen said during the call, except that she said she needed to see a police officer.
Longview Police say they do not even know how Coignard got to the police station. Did she walk? Take public transportation? Did someone drive her and drop her off? There are no answers yet known publicly.
Also a mystery is why the teen, a former student in Longview’s Pine Tree Independent School District, would have attacked the officers with some sort of knife or other weapon.
Equally puzzling is why three police officers believed that they could not defend themselves against a lone teenage girl, who was apparently not armed with a gun, without shooting her dead.
Little is known so far about Kristiana Coignard herself. The Pine Tree ISD confirmed that she was a student there as recently as 2013, but did not say whether she had graduated high school or not.
Her Facebook page reveals little about the teen, but does contain a haunting final posting, made on January 12, of what appears to be a stock image of a young girl and boy stepping through a circular portal into the heavens.
Kristiana Coignard also posted an image of clouds opening above an Egyptian pyramid, with the inscription, “We are in this world, but not of it,” as well as an illustration of a stereotypical extraterrestrial alien. Both images appeared to have been reposted from elsewhere on the internet.
The investigation into why police felt they had to shoot 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard remains ongoing.
UPDATE, 8/4/2015: None of the three officers involved in the killing of Kristiana Coignard were indicted on any charges. On June 25, a grand jury ruled the shooting of the mentally ill young girl “justified.”
But in early July, the slain teen’s family filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the city of Longview, as well as naming police chief Don Dingler and police officers Glenn Derr, Grace Bagley and Gene Duffie.
“They (the family) could give a damn about the money. That’s never been their motivation. It’s strictly the idea of accountability and the idea that they would not be held accountable for their actions,” the family’s attorney, Tim Maloney, said.
The lawsuit alleges that not only that is is “incomprehensible why a police officer, supposedly trained by the Longview Police Department, was unable to restrain a motionless 17-year-old girl,” but that after the troubled teen — who suffered from bipolar disorder and clinical depression — was shot, none of the officers “attempted to see if Kristiana was alive or made any sort of check on her vital signs. Both officers defendant Derr and defendant Bagley sat down.”
The lawsuit charges that the city and the officers violated Kristiana Coingard’s civil rights, and her rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
On July 31, the city petitioned the court to dismiss a part of the lawsuit that charges the police with improper use of a taser. Maloney said that while he was preparing a response to the city’s motion, it had no bearing on the civil rights and Disabilities Act claims in the lawsuit.