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The original item was published from 6/3/2013 9:12:37 AM to 12/4/2013 12:05:01 AM.

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Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: June 3, 2013

[ARCHIVED] Prosecutor Finds use of Deadly Force Lawful in "Suicide-by-Cop"

Independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Tacoma Police Department regarding the shooting death of Sophia A. Strickland have been completed. Strickland, who had a large amount of methamphetamine in her system, died from a gunshot wound inflicted by Tacoma Police Officer Sean Ovens. The incident occurred at a residence in the 3500 Block of Fawcett Avenue in the city of Tacoma.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the death was justifiable homicide under state law. “The deceased committed ‘suicide-by-cop,’” said Prosecutor Lindquist. “This is another example of why drugs and guns do not mix well.”

On December 22, 2012, at approximately 9:30 p.m. Strickland’s mother called 911 and reported that Strickland had fired two rounds from a handgun inside Strickland’s two-story residence. Her purpose in firing the gun was unclear, but it may have been an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Tacoma Police responded, including Officer Ovens. Strickland was still upstairs with a handgun.

Several officers, including a SWAT hostage negotiator, tried to talk to Strickland. She was initially unresponsive, but eventually moved down the stairs into the kitchen area, armed. Officers asked her to put the weapon down. Instead, she raised her arm and pointed the loaded handgun directly at Officer Ovens. Officer Ovens feared for his life and for the lives of others in the residence. He fired 5 shots rounds at Strickland and one round struck her in the chest. She fell to the ground incapacitated. Medical aid was rendered but Strickland died at the scene.

According to Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark, Strickland died from the gunshot wound to her torso. Blood tests revealed that Strickland had consumed a potentially lethal amount of methamphetamine prior to the incident.

For more information, contact Phil Sorensen at (253) 798-6618 or [email protected]

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