A hatchet-wielding woman was shot in a Wisconsin Walmart store on Friday evening. The woman was shot by an officer after she refused to drop the hatchet and “lunged” at the officer. The Walmart is located in Lake Hallie between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls.
UPDATE: Woman shot by officer while wielding a hatchet in a Wisconsin Walmart has died –> https://t.co/N8NSNnuv0l pic.twitter.com/Bua8vK79lD
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The woman, who has been identified as 25-year-old Melissa Abbott, was shopping with two chaperones at the Walmart and reportedly became disruptive when it was time to leave the store. She then grabbed a hatchet from a shelf in the sporting goods department and began swinging it around, damaging items in the store. Police were called around 5 p.m.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk told the Associated Press, “The escorts who were responsible for her were making sure that people were not affected and advising people to step back as they tried to escort her out of the store.”
The woman had been swinging the hatchet around for a while by the time police arrived. The officer who shot the hatchet-wielding woman said she was ordered several times to drop it. Instead of dropping the hatchet, however, the woman “lunged” at him, and he shot her twice. The shooting took place near the lawn and garden center inside the Walmart store.
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“She did not cooperate, and then apparently lunged at the officer, and he did what he is trained to do, and shot her,” Kowalczyk said.
“Lifesaving efforts were performed at the scene by the Chippewa Fire District and a medical professional who happened to be in the store,” NBC affiliate WEAU reported.
The woman was transported to a local hospital and was pronounced dead Friday night at 11:58 p.m. from the wounds to her abdomen and thigh. An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday.
In a news release, Lake Hallie police Chief Cal Smokowicz offered condolences to everyone involved in the incident at Walmart, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
“The Police Department sends its condolences to everyone involved including the family and friends of the victim and the numerous shoppers in the store. Our department strives to resolve issues in the least intrusive means possible; however, every situation is unique and complex. Given the close proximity of other citizens and dangerous and threatening behavior of the subject the officer believed he had no other choice than to use deadly force.”
Police confirmed Melissa Abbott was a resident at the Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Chippewa Falls.
The Lake Hallie officer who shot the hatchet-wielding woman is on administrative leave, which is protocol in officer-involved shootings, and will be interviewed while the incident is being investigated. As part of the investigation, authorities will also gather statements from witnesses and will review footage from Walmart’s security cameras. The state Division of Criminal Investigation will be assisting the sheriff’s office with the investigation.
Kowalczyk added, “Through our investigation we’ve gotten statements from a number of eyewitnesses, and people who were in the vicinity that actually saw the police officer and the actions prior to the shooting.”
The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported that Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer spoke in general about the times when police officers have to make quick decisions about whether a suspect is a threat to the officer or others in the immediate area. They’re trained to use deadly force when a suspect is a threat.
“You are there to protect other individuals,” he said. “Some people are emotional and not rational when the officer tells them to drop a weapon.”
What do you think of the incident with the hatchet-wielding woman in Walmart?
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]