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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Columbia man dead after police standoff, SLED investigating

7-26-2007 Wisconsin:

COLUMBIA (WIS) - What started as a routine call to a fire turned in to a deadly standoff in Richland County Sunday.

"You can't wait until he gets on top of her and starts to stab her and cut her and decide what you go do at that point," says Sheriff Leon Lott, who's standing by Deputy Kelly Hendrix. Hendrix shot 38-year-old Richard Lewis Catoe, Jr. during a two and a half hour long showdown beginning Sunday morning.

Authorities say it all started around 3:00am Sunday. They believe Catoe may have set fire to his home twice.

Neighbors say it was because his wife left him.

"He said well if I can't live there, ain't nobody going to live there. I'm going to burn this house down," said McKenly Minger.

They say he was also threatening to kill an officer with what police describe as a large hunting knife.

After that, they say the officer then shot Catoe in the stomach once.

"Other officers arrived and the individual still kept the knife at bay and at that point threatened to kill any officer that came near him and stated that he was not going to give himself up," said Columbia Police Chief Dean Crisp.

By that point, the sheriff's department arrived on the scene and began negotiations that they say would last several hours.

"I stood about here, they were there, but you could hear everything that this negotiator had to say. He was very arrogant, so for him to try to negotiate a man putting a knife down, it was done very tacky," Sonya Kennedy told WIS News 10.

"He threatened to stab one of the officers, he actually escaped the perimeter and came toward one of the officers with a knife and at that time one of the sheriff's deputies shot him," said Sheriff Leon Lott.

All of this while they think Catoe was under the influence of drugs. Columbia Police Chief Dean Crisp says, "With my experience, with an individual with that type of behavior it would appear to be some type of amphetamine."

The sheriff's department described Catoe as having abnormal strength, and they say they tried to stop him with Tasers before firing the shots that killed him.

"The officer was put in a position where she had no choice whatsoever. Her life was in danger and so was the life of others," Lott said.

But other witnesses, including friends and neighbors, paint a different picture of what happened. "He wasn't threatening the officers ... they had the upper hand," says John Hutto. Hutto lived a few doors down from Catoe, and described him as a nice man, but also one that had problems.

But those were problems that he says he and other neighbors who knew him could solve without violence. Hutto says, "I went down there and stopped him from arguing and fighting several times and had no problem out of him, asked the police if I could do the same today."

Hutto says they said no. Close friend and neighbor Kennedy says she also offered to talk to Catoe because she knew he would respond to her better than the officers. "Sure, they might have talked with him and given him ample enough time to put the knife down, but he was not causing harm to no one else but himself."

But Lott says he was, and he was out there for the neighborhood's protection. "Mr. Catoe was not the person yesterday that they know all the time."

Coroner Gary Watts says Catoe died as a result of blood loss, after gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach.

Catoe was a convicted sex offender with a laundry list of charges including assaulting a police officer.

Sheriff Lott says shooting Catoe was something his deputy had to do, not something she wanted to do. He added that more officers have been killed in the first six months of this year than in the last 30 years. ..more.. by Trey Paul

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