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The sheriff of a rural Missouri county where a deputy fatally shot a woman is urging residents to “think rationally and not just with emotion,” writing that deputies’ home addresses are being circulated online and one deputy and his child have been threatened.
Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond issued an open letter Thursday on social media, calling for calm after the weekend death of 25-year-old Hannah Fizer following a traffic stop. He described her death as “tragic” but said “the onslaught of shock, commercial media coverage, social media outcry, and raw emotion is beginning to devolve into a dangerous situation for our community.”
He said a deputy that is uninvolved with the shooting or its investigation has been threatened with assault and that calls for the deputy’s child to be harmed are “rampant.”
“We are beginning to see people who are willing to resort to criminal behavior and taking advantage of this situation to turn it into social chaos,” the sheriff said.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is investigating the shooting, initially said Fizer was shot after she said she had a gun and threatened to shoot the deputy.
Investigators who searched her car did not find a weapon, patrol spokesman Bill Lowe said. He said no new information was available to explain why the situation escalated into a shooting. No one else was injured during the confrontation.
Lowe said that the investigation was ongoing. He said the sheriff’s office is looking into the threats mentioned in the sheriff’s letter but that the patrol is not involved.
“I know people are impatient and want things to be done quickly,” Lowe said Thursday, “but folks need to take a step back and take a breath and realize we are still early on.”
Fizer’s family and friends expressed doubt that she had a gun. Her father, John Fizer, said Monday that his daughter never carried a gun and she was not likely to become belligerent with law enforcement officers.
No body camera or dashcam video of the encounter exists. Bond told TV station KOMU that the department’s deputies stopped wearing cameras about three years ago because of technical difficulties and a lack of funding.
The deputy, whose name has not been released, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, which is routine in officer-involved shootings. He has worked for Pettis County since 2007 and had no previous complaints against him, Bond said.
The shooting comes amid increased scrutiny of officer-involved killings since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd was a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. Both Fizer and the deputy who shot her were white.
In his letter, Bond said he remained committed to his job despite calls for him to resign or be thrown out of office.
“I need you to think rationally and not just with emotion,” he wrote. “We are all hurting and we need time to heal. I need you to stand with me and not tolerate unreasonable behavior. I need you to step up to support and defend the rule of law. And most of all, I need for us to communicate with each other and live together peaceably.”
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