A police officer shot and killed a man armed with a samurai sword in downtown Modesto early Sunday, authorities said. The officer, who has been identified only as a woman with three years of experience, was not injured.
Modesto police spokesman Sgt. Brian Findlen said a Fire Department official called dispatchers at 5:04 a.m. to report a man with a sword who was acting "bizarre and unusual" outside the DoubleTree Hotel on K Street near Ninth Street.
An officer arrived soon after and "within minutes" encountered the man holding a sword that Findlen estimated was 2 to 3 feet long. The officer shot the 44-year-old man, who was taken to a hospital and died about an hour later.
The man and the officer were "relatively close" to each other when the shooting happened, Findlen said. He could not say whether the armed man charged the officer or exactly how close the two were, because the investigation has not been completed.
Encountering someone with a knife or other "bladed" weapon can be terrifying, Findlen said.
"It's a fear of many officers. And your bulletproof vest is not going to help," he said.
Knives are a "serious threat" to officer safety, he said, because the protective vests they wear are not designed to stop pointed objects.
Officers learn in training that someone with a knife or sword can cover more than 20 feet before an officer can draw a weapon. And, if shot, a suspect with a knife can continue to approach.
"It's not like you shoot someone and they drop down to the ground," Findlen said. "Usually there's still some fight in them."
Findlen was stabbed in the back with a 6-inch screwdriver at the downtown bus station in 1997 while trying to take someone into custody. In his case, he said, shooting wasn't an issue because he was attacked from behind.
Findlen said investigators are trying to determine why the man had the sword, what he was doing downtown and what led the officer to shoot.
From The Modesto Bee, 12 January 2009