Kristiana Coignard, a 17-year-old girl who reportedly struggled with mental illness most of her life, was shot dead by police officers in the lobby of the Longview, Texas, police station last Thursday. On Wednesday, surveillance video of the killing was made public — raising serious questions about whether the officers were ever in danger from Coignard, and why they felt the need to shoot her.
UPDATE: On June 26, a grand jury in Gregg County announced that no charges would be brought against the officers involved in the shooting death of Kristiana Coignard, “based upon finding that the use of deadly force was authorized under state law,” according to District Attorney Carl Dorrough. A medical examiner found that there was no evidence of illegal drugs in the teen victim’s system at the time she was killed.
A study by The Washington Post published on June 30 found that in the first six months of 2015, 124 people suffering from mental illness were shot dead by police officers in the United States, out of 462 fatal police shootings — a rate of about 2.5 per day — in that time period.
The video shows that the first officer on the scene, identified as Glenn Derr, subdued Kristiana Coignard across a row of seats in the police station lobby. Then, after he allowed the teenager to rise to her feet, Coignard makes some sort of movement and Derr tackles her violently, pinning her face down on the floor.
For reasons that Longview police have not explained, Derr fails to handcuff or otherwise secure Coignard so that she is unable to rise to her feet again. Had he done so, from the video, it appears that the shooting never would have taken place.
Though Robertson said in an interview with the news site Think Progress that police told her that audio of the confrontation as well as video does, in fact, exist, the video released Wednesday is silent.
The entire, 25-minute video can be viewed above.
As seen in the video, Coignard enters the deserted police station lobby and loiters for approximately two minutes before picking up a red courtesy phone in the lobby.
According to a report in the Longview News-Journal, which posted the surveillance video of the Kristiana Coignard killing to its YouTube channel, Longview Police Chief Don Dingler said that the teenager asked to speak to an officer when she was connected with a dispatcher on the courtesy phone, but she did not give a reason why.
When Derr arrives about four minutes later, through the lobby’s front entrance, Coignard holds up one hand.
Dingler said that the words “I have a gun” were written on Coignard’s hand. But Coignard never produces a gun in the video and police have not said that any firearm was found on her person.
Moments after Derr allows Coignard to stand up with her hands free — even though she reportedly claimed to have a gun — two other officers arrive, identified as Gene Duffie and Grace Bagley. At this point, the 10:47 mark in the video, Derr already has his gun drawn and leveled at Coignard.
Almost immediately, Coignard rushes in the direction of Derr, who told investigators that the teen wielded a butcher knife. In the video she can be seen raising her arm, as if holding something. But what, if anything, is in her hand remains indistinct.
Though Derr backs to a safe distance from Coignard, both he and Bagley immediately shoot her, and the girl then falls to face down to the floor, motionless.
Derr fired his weapon three times while Bagley shot twice. Duffie said that he tazed Kristiana Coignard, but the tazer had no effect. However, if indeed he fired his tazer, not even a full second elapses before the other two officers open fire, killing the troubled girl.