Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Moment of anguish; momentous decision

Policeman recounts shoot-or-not scene

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Faced with shooting a possibly unarmed woman, an experienced police officer relied on his conscience.

        Sgt. Dave Robinson said he wanted to be able to look at himself in the mirror every morning. So on Sunday, when a woman brandished her purse as if it might have contained a weapon, he pointed his own gun right back and took cover behind his cruiser. He didn't shoot.

        Betty Folston took off in the police car.

        The sergeant, 35 and a 12-year veteran of the Boone County Police, thinks he would have been legally justified in shooting Ms. Folston. But “legally justified” isn't what makes him able to sleep at night.

        “A lot of things race through your mind in a split second,” Sgt. Robinson said Monday. “The thought that she might have a weapon was there, and the thought that she might not have a weapon, too. I wanted to see a weapon.”

        Ms. Folston, 37, of Springfield Township, was not armed. After leading officers on two pursuits, she was arrested after Covington police used Stop Stiks to flatten the cruiser's tires.

        She cried in court Monday, pleaded not guilty but said she didn't understand what was happening to her. She remained in the Boone County Jail later Monday in lieu of $50,000 bail. She faces charges of fleeing a police officer, wanton endangerment, menacing, harassment and car theft.

        It didn't dawn on Sgt. Robinson and Officer Dave Fields as they followed procedure and took cover behind his cruiser that Ms. Folston might try to take the car. After she got inside, Sgt. Robinson tried to open the driver's door, but could not. His supervisors support his actions, saying Ms. Folston at that point was not endangering other people.

        But every situation is different, Sgt. Robinson said, and every officer has to make the shoot-or-not decision himself.

        Eddie Davis, Ms. Folston's former boyfriend, visited the police station to thank him for not shooting the moth er of his children.


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