When Melissa Boarts’ parents called 911 seeking help from the police in locating their daughter after she had fled from the house threatening to slit her wrists, they couldn’t have imagined that their call would become Melissa’s death knell.
And yet, according to them, that is exactly how it turned out.
Melissa’s mother, Terry Boarts, had gone to pick up her 2-year-old granddaughter at her daughter’s house on Sunday, a usual routine with the family, when Terry noticed that her daughter, who was diagnosed as a bipolar manic depressive, was not completely herself. She was edgy.
“I heard Melissa go into to the living room, and I went in there to talk to her,” Terry Boarts said. “She was gone. She had left. We were able to find out she was headed on the interstate going to Auburn. She was threatening to slit her wrists with a knife.”
Putting their granddaughter in the car, Melissa’s parents went looking for her. Fortunately for them, their daughter’s car had a GPS system installed in it, and with the help of their other daughter Melinda, they managed to track the location of Melissa. She had pulled over at a rest stop on I-85, reports the Montgomery Advertiser.
“We were afraid she was going to hurt herself,” Terry said.
But the traffic was too backed up, leaving Melissa’s parents with no option but to call 911 for assistance.
When Melissa’s mother got through to the dispatcher, she made sure the police had all the information needed to help her daughter.
“I relayed to (police) that she was having mental issues — that she was bipolar, that she had been really depressed, that she was saying she was going to cut her wrists… We were thinking they would get her help.”
Melissa kept driving. At one point, her parents got so close that they could spot the back of Melissa’s SUV, but then lost her again. All this while Terry was talking to the 911 dispatcher, relaying the information her daughter Melinda was giving her about her sister’s whereabouts.
Then, suddenly, the dispatcher informed her that Melissa’s car had come to a stop.
When Terry and her husband reached the spot, they witnessed a sea of police cars, 14 in total, and a number of officers at the site. She knew something had happened.
“I’m sitting there thinking she hit a tree,” Terry said.
Later, however, Melissa Boarts’ parents were told by the Auburn Police that their daughter was shot because she “charged at them with an unidentified weapon,” prompting “an officer to open fire and kill her.”
But the parents cannot believe that story. Melissa, they say, did not have any weapons on her, except for a pocket knife. She could not have threatened the police officers, and even if she did, they should have known better than to put a bullet inside her.
Now Melissa Boarts’ parents are pursuing legal action. Melissa’s father, Michael Boarts, told AL.com that their daughter was killed by the Auburn police.
“It is absolutely outrageous that our precious daughter, Melissa, was shot and killed by the Auburn police. There was absolutely no justification for it and we are all in deep mourning.”
Speaking to the Washington Post, an attorney for the family echoed the sentiment, saying that shooting Melissa was “totally unjustified.”
The instance of Melissa Boarts could point to a larger problem. In 2016, at least 262 people have been fatally shot by police, with about a quarter of them being mentally ill or experiencing an emotional crisis.
Melissa’s parents intend to pursue the trial “very vigorously,” hoping that there will some kind of justice for their dead daughter. The Auburn police, meanwhile, hope to show that the officer acted in self-defense and that Melissa had left little option for the officer but to use the firearm.
“It’s difficult to get true justice,” Terry Boarts said, “because you can’t bring somebody back to life.”
[Photo by Mike Makela/Getty Images]