Police shot dead a 19-year-old who drove off in his father’s truck Monday, after a dispute with his father over a pack of cigarettes. According to audio dispatches, police knew it was the boy’s father who called the police after a minor argument. But police pursued the moving vehicle onto the Iowa State University campus, and fired six shots into the vehicle after Tyler Comstock refused to turn the car off and revved his engine.
“It was over a damn pack of cigarettes. I wouldn’t buy him none,” Tyler’s father, James Comstock, told the DesMoines Register. “And I lose my son for that.”
The truck that Tyler took was a white and green lawn care vehicle with a trailer on the back. And the family questions why police did not stop the chase and look for the easily recognizable vehicle later. But when Tyler didn’t pull over for a stop, the incident devolved into a police chase with six or seven cars involved — a violation of police department protocol, according to Iowa State Daily.
A dispatcher is heard saying, “We know the suspect, so we can probably back it off.” Someone suggested backing off a second time. But police kept going. Dashcam video of the chase shows Comstock driving erratically, as police ram his vehicle, and he in turn later rams a police vehicle. Comstock’s vehicle was stopped on the lawn of the university, where officers approached the car and asked Comstock to get out. When he didn’t, officers fired six shots into the vehicle. Comstock died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
Resident calls for help that end in fatal police shootings are all too common. Just last month, a Georgia resident called 911 for medical assistance, worried about whether her fiancé was acting erratically because he had overdosed on diabetes medication. But when police arrived, they say the 43-year-old man lunged at them, and killed him in front of his fiancé, and 8-year-old daughter. The month before that, an unarmed man was shot dead by police in North Carolina after he knocked on a resident’s door seeking help with a car accident. The residents called 911 as a precautionary measure, but police hit the 24-year-old with a Taser as he approached, and then shot him.
County Attorney Stephen Holmes has decided that the police use of deadly force was justified, saying the incident occurred “under a very fast moving timeline,” and that the Dashcam video left him concerned that it was “only by sheer luck that no one else was seriously injured or killed by Mr. Comstock.” The DesMoines Register has posted the full memorandum here.