Justice

Surveillance Video Raises Questions About 17-Year-Old Girl Fatally Shot By Cops At Police Station

CREDIT: Courtesy of Heather Robertson

Kristiana Coignard

The Longview Police released surveillance footage capturing the final moments of Kristiana Coignard’s life. The 17-year-old was fatally shot by two police officers in the lobby of the Longview Police Department.

Coignard struggled with mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder, since her mother died when she was four. She had been hospitalized twice in recent years after suicide attempts. But according to her aunt, Heather Robertson, she had been regularly seeing a counselor and taking medication since she moved in with Robertson in December.

The video captures most of the incident at a considerable distance and contains no audio but does raise questions about whether police had an opportunity to defuse the situation prior to the shooting. For several minutes before Coignard was shot, one officer appeared to have her effectively controlled and immobilized. The other officer who fatally shot Coignard had been on the scene for less than five seconds.

The silent video is nearly 25 minutes long. (Coignard’s aunt was told by police that video footage that includes audio exists.) The first officer, Glenn Derr, arrives on the scene at the 7:38 mark. By 8:00 some sort of struggle commences between Derr and Coignard. Just 15 seconds later, Derr appears to have Coignard subdued, pinned on a bench, and she appears to be motionless for more than a minute. Coignard starts kicking again but goes limp a few seconds later. After another minute, officer Derr appears to help Coignard up off the bench. But he almost immediately tackles her. At the 10:30 mark of the tape, Coignard is facedown on the ground and Derr appears to have her arms pinned behind her back.

Derr quickly gets off her back but Coignard remains on the ground. At this point, Derr appears to have his gun drawn. At 10:50, the second officer, Gene Duffie, arrives in the lobby. Coignard gets back up. At 11:05, a third officer, identified as Grace Bagley enters.

Three seconds later, Coignard runs toward Derr. Longview Police Chief Don Dingler says she was wielding a butcher knife, although it is hard to make out in the video. (Dingler also say that Coignard had the words “I have a gun” written on her hand.) According to police, Officer Duffie first deployed his Taser but it had “no effect.” But about a second after Coignard began charging it appears that shots were fired. Derr fired at Coignard three times and Bagley, who had been on the scene less than five seconds, fired twice.

Coignard immediately fell to the ground. Medical attention did not arrive for nearly six minutes. It doesn’t appear that any of the officers attempted CPR during that time.

In an interview with ThinkProgress last Sunday, before the tape was released, Robertson raised questions about the circumstances of Coignard’s death. “I think it was a cry for help. I think they could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us,” Robertson said.