UPDATED: Costco shooting justified
Mhai Scott, 38, of Sterling, died some time after 3 p.m. May 29 after she was shot four times by a Loudoun County Sheriff's Office deputy whose name was not released.
"This is a tragic event and all of us wish we didn't have to be here today … ," said Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman at a press conference.
Plowman said the deputy's shooting of Scott was in self-defense and in the defense of the customers in the store when she began charging at him with a knife and scissors.
"The actions taken by Ms. Scott of refusing to drop the knife and scissors coupled with her raising the weapons with the blades pointed at the officers and then charging at them, presented the Deputies with an immediate and real threat to their safety, as well as the safety of the bystanders and other Deputies," a 19-page report released by Plowman reads.
The deputy that shot Scott will return to duty after being on paid administrative leave following the incident, according to Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman.
Plowman said the justified determination was made after interviewing 40 people and reviewing the 911 call, hours of video footage of interviews with the deputies and witnesses and surveillance footage from inside the Costco. The surveillance footage does not show the actual shooting, he said.
"It's unfortunate, but the camera only captures about half of the aisle … not where she was ultimately shot," he said.
Plowman, when asked whether he believed five shots was excessive, said "even after [Scott] was struck four times she continued to walk the floor for a little bit."
According to the report detailing the incident, Scott had no reaction to the first shot. Unsure of whether he hit her, the deputy fired again. She then fell to the ground with both weapons still clutched in her hands.
The report did not say exactly where Scott was hit with each bullet.
Of the four deputies that responded to the store at Price Cascades Parkway, one was struck in the leg by one of the five shots fired during the incident.
Plowman said it's likely the deputy was struck by a ricocheting bullet, but it's not exactly known how he was hit.
Prior to the shooting, a deputy had commanded Scott to drop her weapons. When she did not comply he shot her with a Taser. A preliminary autopsy report said that the prongs of the Taser embedded into Scott's body, hitting her in the rear shoulder and upper buttocks.
However, for unknown reasons, the Taser malfunctioned and did not send electrical volts to Scott's body.
Plowman said the Taser has been sent to the manufacturer for further analysis.
"It could have been a mechanical or human error … it's unknown at this time," he said.
Employees of the Costco had called law enforcement after Scott, a Customer Services Demonstration employee, began acting erratic, complaining that the oven on the pizza cart she was manning wasn't working correctly. She also complained that the pizza slices should be bigger.
In the report, one 44-year-old employee said he tried to calm Scott but she continued her behavior and started saying irrational things like "How's this world doing outside?" "Why does the carpet smell this way?" and "What's going to happen to my daughters?"
Scott had grabbed a 13-inch carving knife off of her co-worker's cart and a pair of kitchen scissors and began waving the two around, the report said. A manager's attempt to get her to put the two down were unsuccessful.
A preliminary autopsy report, according to Plowman, indicates there were no alcohol or drugs in Scott's system at the time of her death.
She did, however, have a history of erratic behavior, according to the report, which detailed a February 2012 incident in Albany, Ohio, where Scott's ex-husband called police for fear she would harm their two children.
Scott, according to the report, had sent texts to her husband with messages such as "There is no other god than Satan!" and "Don't save the children."
The children were later found by police hiding in an upstairs closet. Scott was taken into custody and treated at Ohio State University Hospital where doctors described her behavior as "new onset psychosis" possibly triggered by her recent marital problems. She was prescribed Haloperidol, an anti-psychotic and given a psychiatric referral.
In June 2012, Scott began receiving psychiatric treatment in Northern Virginia, where she was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. During her treatment, she was not allowed to have unsupervised visits with her children.
She told her psychiatrist during a March 9, 2013, visit that she had not taken her medication for three months.
A full copy of the report is available at http://tinyurl.com/m79aoo8.
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