On January 22, 2015, 17-year old Kristiana Coignard walked into the Longview Police Department in Longview Texas and never walked out.
Coignard was a troubled teen with a history of mental illness. According to her family, she had bipolar disorder.
The tragic last few minutes of Coignard’s life was captured on a camera in the police lobby. Here’s a breakdown of the events leading to her death.
At the 1:24 mark: What appears to be a young female enters the police station lobby. The young female appears to be between 5-foot-4?and 5-foot-6. She’s wearing baggy black clothes, but appears to be very petite.
At the 2:05 mark: The young female figure makes her way to the red emergency phone on the adjacent wall. She stands by the phone looking around for a few seconds.
At the 2:32 mark: The young female figure pulls an object out of her right pocket. Judging from how she held and interacted with the object it may have been a cell phone. She puts the object in her opposite pocket about 40 seconds later.
At the 4:12 mark: The young female figure picks up a wall mounted phone and calls the desk. Between the 2:32 and 4:12 mark she appears to hesitate; you see her pull her hand away from the phone a few times before picking it up. It isn’t clear what was said.
At the 7:38 mark: What appears to be a larger male figure – ?approximately 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, and dressed in what could be a black police officer’s uniform – enters from the front entrance of the police lobby. He proceeds directly to the young girl. His hand is on his left hip. He stops maybe three feet from the young girl, and starts an interaction at the 7:45 mark.
At the 7:55 mark: the large male appears to reach for the young girl, but she pulls away. He appears to hold her hand or wrist. She backs up about 10-t0-12 feet into a black chair around the 8:03 mark.
At the 8:03-10:15 mark: The large male struggles with the young female. He appears to try to hold her down in the chair, while she kicks and struggles. He seemingly lets her stand up around the 10:15 mark.
At the 10:21 mark: The large male grabs the back of the young female’s neck and slams her face first onto the floor. He appears to have her subdued; it looks like he’s trying to handcuff her. But around the 10:34 mark, he suddenly gets off of her and backs away. Judging from his body language he appears to have a weapon of some kind drawn and pointed at the female.
At the 10:44 mark: Another male figure – between 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4?and between 220 to 240 pounds – enters the lobby through the front entrance. He appears to be wearing the same black uniform as the other male figure.
At the 10:53 mark: The young girl appears to stand up, unrestrained. It isn’t clear what she’s holding in her hand. The new male figure appears to be talking to the young female while the other male figure backs away pointing what appears to be a gun at the female.
At the 11:02 mark: What appears to be a female figure – approximately 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-6, maybe 140 to 165 pounds, and wearing a black uniform similar to that worn by the two males – enters the lobby through the front entrance. She proceeds to the second male’s position.
At the 11:06 mark: The young female figure rushes forward towards the first male figure, who has his gun trained on her. It’s still unclear what she has in her hand. That male appears to fire three or four shots into the young female. The second male figure can be seen with what appears to be a gun or Taser drawn and pointed towards the young female figure, but it’s unclear if he discharges the weapon.
The uniformed female figure draws her weapon and trains it on the young female after she collapses to the floor. The primary shooter and the uniformed female figure both keep their weapons trained on the prone young female figure while the second male figure appears to check her.
Here’s the video.
Coignard’s mother told People Magazine that her daughter texted her just hours before her death.
“She said how much she loved me. She seemed fine. Kristiana was so excited for her future.”
Via The Guardian:
“She was on regular medication and also on counselling, therapy, and seeing a counsellor that day as part of her regular treatment,” Coignard said. Her stepmother, Elizabeth Canales-Coignard, said there had been no indication earlier in the day that Kristiana was in crisis.
“She was texting me back and forth and it was very positive, it was very loving. In our conversation with her through texts that day, she was having a good day. It’s not to our knowledge otherwise,” she said.
In June of 2015, following an “investigation,” authorities found that the officer acted within the boundaries of the law and deemed the shooting justified.
Officers Glenn Derr, Gene Duffie and Grace Bagley, were the officers seen in the video. Derr was the man who fired the fatal shots.
According to Gregg County District Attorney Carl Dorrough, Derr’s actions were lawful. Here’s his description of the shooting via News-Journal.com:
“The two began to struggle and fell onto a bench in the lobby. As Derr attempted to contain Coignard, she moved her body and kicked at him with her legs. The pair struggled on the bench for just over two minutes,” Dorrough said in the statement.
“Derr pulled his weapon when Coignard refused his request to stop moving her hands towards the right side of her body.”
As the two continued to struggle, Coignard stood up. Derr reholstered his weapon and threw Coignard to the floor where she landed on her stomach, the statement said.
“As Derr attempted to secure her, Coignard displayed a knife, at which point Derr backed away with his weapon drawn,” Dorrough said in the statement.
“As Officer Gene Duffie entered the lobby and walked towards the two, Coignard rose to her feet. When he saw she was holding a knife, Duffie removed his Tazer and began speaking to her.”
About 14 seconds after Duffie arrived, Bagley entered the lobby.
As Bagley walked up behind Duffie, Coignard rushed toward Derr holding the knife in her right hand, the district attorney said.
“As she charged, Derr back-peddled and fired as did Bagley. Duffie discharged his Tazer. A total of five shots were fired along with the discharge of Duffie’s Tazer,” Dorrough said.
Coignard died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained in the incident.
“After reviewing the evidence, including videotape from the lobby surveillance camera and testimony from the Texas Ranger who conducted the investigation, the grand jury declined to take action against the officers based upon finding that the use of deadly force was authorized under state law,” Dorrough said. “Therefore, no criminal charges will be brought against the officers involved.”
Coignard’s family couldn’t disagree more. They believed their loved one could have been saved had the police done their jobs.
“Our belief is that she went there asking for help. It’s evident just by watching the video of how long she was calm, cooperative, subdued. For so many, I’m guessing about 10, minutes, there wasn’t any violence on her part, or charging, or anything like that. So I know that it was asking for help, that was her intent,” said her father, Erik Coignard.
“In the video it’s evident there are lots of times when she was under the officer’s control and she could have and should have been restrained at that point. It would have been a very different outcome.”
Many blame1 Kristiana’s death on the teen and her parents while excusing officer Derr’s actions as reasonable. They say the officer had “no choice” but to shoot her. However, police in many other countries train extensively on using non-fatal techniques to subdue dangerous suspects wielding weapons. Indeed, YouTube is filled with videos of European police officers neutralizing knife-wielding suspects with non-lethal force. Here are some examples.
And then there’s this amazing video of an officer in a police station in Thailand using his words and humanity to defuse a situation that would have been a death sentence in America.
Unfortunately, Kristiana’s family told her to seek a police station if she ever felt she was in danger, how could they have known that sensible piece of advice would end in tragedy? The sad truth is that Kristiana would most likely be alive today had she taken that advice in almost any other country.
Featured image via YouTube.