PINE BLUFF — Police used negotiation, tear gas and a distraction device before fatally wounding a 107-year-old man during a shootout in a residential neighborhood, officials said Monday.
Still, neighbors of Monroe Isadore said police could have found some other way of ending an hours-long standoff that began Saturday afternoon when police responded to a reported disturbance at a residence.
Isadore died in a hail of bullets after reportedly firing on members of a SWAT team who entered the residence.
One Pine Bluff police officer has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation in to the incident Saturday afternoon authorities said Monday.
Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks declined to identify the officer, a member of the department’s SWAT team. Hubanks said two separate investigations are under way, one a criminal investigation, the second an internal investigation to determine if the shooting followed department policy.
Earlier Monday, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said he would not comment on the incident until he receives a copy of the police investigate file. Hubanks said detectives are working to compile that file. He also said there was "no way to say" how long it will take to complete the investigation.
According to Police Lt. David Price, the incident began at approximately 4:25 p.m Saturday. He said when officers arrived, they were told that Isadore had pointed a gun at two people inside his house. Those two people were not identified by police.
"The officers had the two victims leave the residence for their safety and approached the door to the bedroom where Isadore was supposed to be. When officers announced themselves, Isadore fired through the door at them. No officer was hit or injured by the gunfire," Price said in the police statement.
Price said the officers backed out to a safer area, and supervisors and additional help were called out. He said police supervisors began trying to negotiate with Isadore as soon as they arrived.
"SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) was also called out," Price said. "Negotiations continued for some time and when SWAT arrived, negotiations still continued."
He said the SWAT officers were able to get a camera into the room where Isadore was located and confirmed that he was armed with a handgun.
"SWAT inserted gas into the room after it was evident negotiations were unsuccessful, in hopes Isadore would surrender peacefully," Price said. "When the gas was inserted into the room, Isadore fired rounds at the SWAT officers that inserted the gas from outside a bedroom window.
"Shortly afterwards, a SWAT entry team, inside the residence, breached the door to the bedroom and threw a distraction device into the bedroom," Price said. "Isadore then began to fire on the entry team and the entry team engaged Isadore, killing him."
The distraction device was described as a flash-bang grenade, which creates a loud explosion that is intended to distract someone’s attention but not harm them otherwise.
Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley identified the man, who was pronounced dead at 7:23 p.m. Saturday by Deputy Coroner Eric Belcher. The cause of death was listed as multiple gunshot wounds, and Kelley said the body would be sent to the State Medical Examiner for an autopsy.
Two people who live in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred and were home Saturday questioned the police action.
"They didn’t have to kill him," said Chelisa Canada, who lives across the street from where the incident occurred. "They could have done something else."
Canada said police could have waited until Isadore ran out of bullets and then went in to get him.
"I think they went in there with the intention of killing him," she said. "He couldn’t have had that many bullets in his gun."
Police have not said what type of handgun Isadore had.
Another neighbor, Gregory Wilson, said "they never should have done that."
"They threw those gas bombs and then all I heard was pow, pow, pow, pow, pow," Wilson said. "There were SWAT police outside the house, inside the house, all over the place."
Wilson said he saw about 25 police cars and unmarked cars, and that the standoff between Isadore and police "lasted four or five hours from start to finish."
Both Wilson and Canada said they didn’t know Isadore, but knew the woman who lived in the house, and her grandchildren.
Canada said she knew that Isadore had been staying at the house for "a few days," while Wilson said he "wasn’t aware he was over there."
He also said the incident disturbed the entire neighborhood.
"They were having services at the church (Old St. James Missionary Baptist Church, located a block away), and they must have stopped the services because they all came out and came to the corner," Wilson said.
The shooting death was the first in Pine Bluff since May the 10th of the year in the city.
Ray King writes for the Pine Bluff Commercial.