Officer Fatally Shoots Hatchet-Wielding Woman at Wal-Mart

Officers say the developmentally-disabled woman was shopping Friday with chaperones at the Wal-Mart in Lake Hallie, Wisconsin

A police officer fatally shot a developmentally disabled woman inside a western Wisconsin Wal-Mart after she refused to drop a hatchet she had grabbed from a shelf, authorities say.

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk said the woman was shopping with chaperones Friday at the store in Lake Hallie, between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. The sheriff said Lake Hallie police were called around 5 p.m. after she grabbed a hatchet from a sporting goods department shelf and began swinging it, using it on pillows and other items before officers showed up.

He said police arrived and ordered her to drop the hatchet.

"She did not cooperate, and then apparently lunged at the officer, and he did what he is trained to do, and shot her," Kowalczyk said Friday.

The woman was taken to an Eau Claire hospital with wounds to her abdomen and thigh. Chippewa County Coroner Ronald Patten said Saturday that the 25-year-old woman died Friday night and that an autopsy was planned for Sunday.

Authorities did not immediately release the woman's name. Kowalczyk said she was a resident of the Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Chippewa Falls.

He said the woman became disruptive when it was time to leave the store.

"The escorts who were responsible for her were making sure that people were not affected and advising people to step back as they tried to escort her out of the store," Kowalczyk said. 

The sheriff said she had the hatchet in her possession for some time before police arrived. The shooting happened near the lawn and garden center. 

The Lake Hallie officer who shot the woman was placed on administrative leave and will be interviewed by investigators, Kowalczyk said.

"Through our investigation we've gotten statements from a number of eyewitnesses, and people who were in the vicinity that actually saw the police officer and the actions prior to the shooting," the sheriff said.

Any surveillance footage from the store's security cameras will be reviewed as part of the investigation, he said. The state Division of Criminal Investigation is assisting the sheriff's office.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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