"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Part of the deposition of Little Rock Police Department Officer Donna Lesher, who after a brief struggle shot and killed 67-year-old Eugene Ellison in his apartment near Asher Ave. on Dec. 9, 2010, is now part of the public record as one of the filings in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit, and contains some doozies.
Lesher and her partner, Officer Tabitha McCrillis, were working off-duty security at the Big Country Chateau Apartments when they came upon Ellison's open apartment door. Looking inside, they said, they saw Ellison sitting on the couch with his shirt open, shaking uncontrollably. After Ellison told the officers to get out, a fight ensued, with Ellison reportedly whacking them with his cane. Later, after backup arrived, Lesher shot Ellison twice in the chest with her department-issued sidearm. An internal investigation by the LRPD cleared McCrillis and Lesher of any wrongdoing.
The most interesting part of the partial deposition — and possibly the most instructive, if you're a citizen of Little Rock — might be Officer Lesher's without-hesitation reply to what she'd have done if Ellison had simply closed the door in her face. Namely, call in the SWAT team. From the deposition, with Ellison family attorney Michael J. Laux asking the questions:
LAUX: Isn't it true that the reason that you walked in Mr. Ellison's apartment is because you thought he was going to shut the door on you and Tabitha McCrillis?
LAUX: What would you have done if Mr. Ellison had gotten up off the couch, walked to his front door, and shut his front door on the two of you as you stood out on the concrete walkway?
LESHER: I would have called for SWAT.
LAUX: You would have called for SWAT?
LAUX: What would be the purpose of calling the SWAT team?
LESHER: I didn't know what was wrong with him.
LAUX: Why are you assuming there's something wrong with him? Is it just his open shirt and the twitching?
LESHER: It's the whole — whole picture.
LAUX: Let me ask you this question —
LESHER: I wanted to know what was going on in that apartment.
LAUX: Let me ask you this question, and it's just a straight-up question. Didn't Mr. Ellison have the legal right to shut his front door on the both of you if that's what he wanted to do?
LAUX: So you're saying that if he had exercised his legal right to shut his door on the two of you, he would have had to deal with a SWAT team showing up moments later?
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