The city of Redmond, Washington recently announced that it had settled with the family of a woman who was shot by police officers in her own apartment after calling 911 for help. In September of 2020, Andrea Thomas Churna called 911 to ask for police to come to her apartment for assistance. She told the 911 operators that she thought someone was trying to kill her. There was an audio recording of the 911 call. She had recently had a bad experience with her ex-boyfriend, and she was concerned.
When police arrived at the scene, they saw Churna climbing up a balcony. She told police that she had a mental health history and that she was concerned it might be playing a role. The police then asked Churna if she had a firearm. She did, and she retrieved it. While the handgun was jammed and inoperable, Churna was later shot and killed by the police. Officer Daniel Mendoza fired the fatal shot.
The Chief of the Redmond Police Department, Darrell Lowe, stated that Churna was unarmed when she was shot. Lowe admitted to the mistake, apologized to Churna’s family, and stated that the news release also contained an error. The initial report stated that Churna had confronted the officers with a handgun. That turned out to be false. The original press release also stated that multiple shots had been fired, which was also false. While there is an inquest going on, more details cannot be provided until it is concluded.
Fortunately for Ms. Churna’s family, a settlement has been reached which should provide some closure. The attorney representing Churna’s family, Kim Zak, announced that the city had reached a settlement of $7.5 million with the city of Redmond. The family and their attorney were prepared to show the multitude of errors that the city had made in handling the call of their loved one. While the settlement may provide some closure, it also has to lead to meaningful change that can prevent an issue like this from happening again. It will be interesting to see if the police department makes changes in how it receives and responds to 911 calls, particularly involving people with a history of mental health concerns.