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Archive for Tuesday, April 30, 1991

PARENTS DESCRIBE EVENTS THE NIGHT OF FATAL SHOOTING

April 30, 1991

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The mother of a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by Lawrence police told the jury in a coroner's inquest this morning that the night her son was shot started out calmly and there was no disturbance in her home when she called police.

Orene Sevier, whose son, Gregory, died about 2:30 a.m. April 21, said she called police early that morning because she was concerned about her son, who was sitting on the edge of his bed holding a butcher knife.

"There was no disturbance in the home," she said. "There was no problem. I was mostly concerned with Gregg."

Mrs. Sevier was one of the first witnesses to testify about the fatal shooting in the inquest, which began about 9 a.m. today in the commission meeting room of the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts.

THE INQUEST began with jury selection. Twelve members of a group of 21 potential jurors were questioned, and six of those 12 were later selected to sit on the jury. Five women and one man, all white, comprise the jury.

About 110 people, including Native American community leaders, packed into the gallery of the meeting room to watch the inquest into the death of Sevier, who also was a Native American. The inquest was to continue this afternoon.

Mrs. Sevier testified that after spending the early part of the evening playing darts in the basement, Sevier and his father went to a tavern and returned home about 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m.

Later, she testified, her husband told her that he saw Sevier sitting on his bed with a knife. After discussing with her husband what they should do, Mrs. Sevier decided to call police.

When the first officer arrived, Mrs. Sevier said, he barged into the house and asked her, "Which bedroom?"

Mrs. Sevier said she pointed out her son's bedroom, but the door was locked and the officer could not open it. Mrs. Sevier said her husband unlocked the door with a toothpick.

THE OFFICER, she said, pushed the door open with his nightstick. His gun was drawn, she said.

She testified that her son told the officer, "I didn't do anything."

The officer, she said, immediately ordered her son to "Show me your hand. Show me your hand."

Mrs. Sevier said the second officer arrived shortly after that and ordered her and her husband to get out of the hallway. She went to the kitchen, then stepped back into the hall.

She said she saw her son and an officer with his gun drawn.

"I heard Gregg say, `Mom, I love you,' `Mom, I love you,'" Mrs. Sevier said. "I said, `Gregg, I love you, too.' Then I heard two or three shots."

Willie Sevier, father of the victim, offered the same details about the shooting as his wife.

BEFORE POLICE arrived, Mr. Sevier said, he unlocked his son's room and observed him holding a knife. Mr. Sevier left the room.

After consulting with Mrs. Sevier, the police were called. Mr. Sevier said he and his wife hoped officers could disarm their son.

One officer arrived at their home. Again, Sevier's room was unlocked with a toothpick and the officer pushed the door open.

A second police officer arrived at the house. At this point, both officers had their guns drawn, Mr. Sevier said.

One of the officers told Gregg: "Drop the knife. Drop the knife," Mr. Sevier said.

He testified that his son told the officers to shoot him. The officers blocked Mr. and Mrs. Seviers' view. They didn't know whether their son still had a knife in his hand, Mr. Sevier said.

Mr. Sevier said as he turned to see where his wife was, the officers opened fire on Gregg.

ASKED WHY Gregg told his mother he loved her, Mrs. Sevier said "at that time, Gregg felt he had no choice two guns pointed at him."

Mr. and Mrs. Sevier both testified that police did not talk to them or their son during the ordeal. Rather, they testified, police shouted orders.

"At no time did he say (to Gregg Sevier), `Hey, what's your problem. Let's talk about it," Mr. Sevier said.

Mrs. Sevier said the officers brushed past her and her husband, ignoring them. When her son told the officer, "I didn't do anything," she said, the officer "didn't respond."

"He didn't say anything," she said. "He did not say, `I want to talk to you.' He did not say anything.

"I also want to stress that when the officers came to our house, I did not hear any communication between the officers and Gregg or between the two officers."

MR. AND Mrs. Sevier testified officers refused to allow the couple to see their son after he was shot.

However, Mrs. Sevier said she was still calm even though she knew Gregg had been shot.

"All this time I was calm, because I did not think they would shoot to kill," Mrs. Sevier said.

About 30 minutes later, Mrs. Sevier said she heard someone say that her son was dead.

"That's when I went to pieces. I told the cops, `You didn't have to shoot to kill,'" she said.

The Seviers' testimony came after police officers played a taped recording of the emergency call she made to police the morning her son was shot by officers James Phillips and Ted Bordman.

On the tape, Mrs. Sevier asks for an officer to come to the family home at 1627 E. 18th Ter.

"MY SON is in his bedroom and he's got a butcher knife," she said in a calm, steady voice. "I just want someone to check him out."

When asked why her son had a knife, Mrs. Sevier said: "I think he's having a problem with his girlfriend or something. I don't know."

Ann Woods, a Lawrence police dispatcher, testified that she sent Bordman and Phillips to the residence after receiving the call.

Those attending the inquest listened intently as the tape played on, chronicling the police response to Mrs. Sevier's call. At the request of Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jim Flory, Lawrence police Sgt. Kevin Harmon stopped the tape periodically to explain police terminology and update listeners on the chronology of the events. Harmon testified that he prepared a transcript of the tape.

Bordman was the first officer on the scene. Shortly after he arrived, he asked all other officers to stay off the police radio unless they had to make emergency transmissions.

PHILLIPS THEN arrived, followed by Sgt. George Wheeler, the shift supervisor.

After about a minute and a half of silence, an officer broke in and requested an ambulance.

"We've got a man down," a voice said, adding that the victim is suffering "a sucking chest wound. We've got a subject down, shot."

Harmon testified that Bordman arrived at the Sevier residence 5 minutes and 27 seconds after Mrs. Sevier dialed 911.

Phillips, Harmon said, arrived a minute and 36 seconds after Bordman, and Wheeler arrived a minute and 24 seconds after Phillips.

Harmon testified that 4 minutes and 21 seconds elapsed between the time Bordman arrived and the time an officer reported that shots had been fired.

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