Woman courted killing, Police Chief Olin says
One friend said Marsha Lynn Mace was fun to be with “99 percent” of the time but didn’t respond well to authority figures.
Police said Monday they believe Mace tried to get officers to shoot and kill her – and succeeded.
A Lawrence Police officer fatally shot Mace, 36, early Sunday afternoon after a roughly 4 1/2 hour standoff at trailer No. 107 at Mobile Village, 110 N. Michigan St. Police Chief Ron Olin said Mace had threatened suicide and that she fired two gunshots inside the trailer throughout the day before emerging with a small revolver about 1:23 p.m. and firing at two officers.
Olin said Mace left behind a note, and he said that she was having personal, medical and financial problems.
“I am sorry to conclude that this was the outcome she desired,” he said.
It was the first shooting involving Lawrence police in nearly 11 years. Police have not yet publicly identified the officer who shot Mace. Olin said that officer was interviewed Sunday evening and has been placed on administrative leave, pursuant to the department’s policies.
LPD procedures call for the department to conduct its own investigation, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is helping analyze physical evidence. Despite that ongoing process, Olin said Monday it appeared to him the shooting was justified.
“The preliminary information … clearly indicates that this was not caused by anyone but the victim, and that the officer took the actions he should have at the time that he took them,” Olin said.
Mace was alone at the home of her father, Jim, on Sunday during the standoff, friends and neighbors said. He and Mace’s 14-year-old son were out of town visiting Mace’s sister.
Jim is a part-time employee at the Flamingo Club, 501 N. Ninth St., friends said.
“She’s been known in this town. She was born in Lawrence and grew up here. Overall, people liked Marsha because she was very upbeat and very personable, very loving and caring,” said Robert Osburn.
Mace had worked for Osburn and his brother, Richard, at Naughty But Nice Inc., 1741 Mass., for about a year until she changed jobs in 2005. The brothers have known the family for 30 years, he said.
She would often greet customers with a “Hi, hun,” he said.
“Marsha had one of the most outgoing personalities you’ll ever see,” Osburn said.
Recently, Marsha was working part time at Paradise Saloon, staff members said. Osburn said she had worked until 2 a.m. Sunday and that staff members told him she seemed to be fine.
Developer J. Stewart, who had dated Mace in the past and remained friends with her, said she worked at strip clubs as a cocktail waitress, but not a dancer. He said she was under “emotional stress” recently and was concerned about losing her home in the 400 block of Arkansas Street.
He said she recently had learned of brain-related health troubles – he wasn’t sure of the exact condition – and that she did not have health insurance.
The standoff began shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday when an officer went to the trailer at the request of Mace’s mother, who was concerned about her well-being. Olin said that Mace was “someone we know.”
When the officer knocked on the door, Olin said, there was a gunshot from inside the trailer.
The officer sought cover at his patrol car and called for backup. Officers tried to contact her through a public-address system, and she was “despondent” when an LPD captain reached her by cell phone, Olin said. Eventually, three negotiators were called to the scene and negotiated with Marsh for about an hour and a half.
A tactical team was called to the scene, and eyewitnesses described seeing officers maneuvering near the trailer with weapons drawn.
About 12:30 p.m., there was a second shot from within the trailer, Olin said, but negotiators at that time remained in contact with Mace and knew she wasn’t harmed.
She later emerged from the trailer and began shooting, Olin said.
Tiffany Standfield watched some of the standoff from her balcony at Northwinds Apartments, 1311 George Court, and could see police but not Mace. She said she saw police officers trying to negotiate with Mace. She said officers gave her “plenty of chances.”
She said that at the end of the standoff, she heard officers yelling for Mace to put her hands up, and that another officer yelled “Gun!” three or four times. She said she heard one shot, which she assumed came from Mace because she saw two officers who were behind a squad car duck down.
She said she then heard two shots in return fire and saw one officer fire from behind the car.
“I don’t think there was anything they could have done different,” Standfield said. “They were just kind of doing their job, and she got a little bit over excited about it.”
Olin said he could not yet give the exact number of shots fired, by whom, and when, and that witnesses were still being interviewed Monday.
Mace was flown to a Kansas City hospital with what Olin said were two gunshot wounds. She died Sunday afternoon, but police did not announce her death until Monday morning.
Olin cited Mace’s “depression,” but he declined to talk about what was in the note she left behind.
“We extend our condolences to the family and to the officer’s family,” Olin said.
LPD to review
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and LPD detectives were still collecting evidence at the scene of the shooting as of Monday afternoon.
“The investigation is not complete,” Olin said.
Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said Lawrence Police invited the KBI to assist in reviewing the incident, but that LPD would lead the investigation. KBI was in charge of the crime scene and had an agent present at Mace’s autopsy, Smith said.
In general, Smith said, the KBI’s role after a shooting is to examine the placement of evidence, angle of the bullets, and positioning of the people involved.
The last shooting involving Lawrence Police was in November 1995, Olin said. In that case, two detectives exchanged fire along the Kansas River with a suspect in a bank robbery and carjacking. One officer was injured in the shooting, and the suspect suffered two gunshot wounds before turning his gun on himself.
When to shoot
Lawrence Police policies say an officer is justified in using deadly force when “the officer reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to the officer or another person.”
Standard police training dictates that if someone points a gun at an officer, the officer isn’t obligated to wait for the person to shoot, said Jerry Wolfskill, director of the Regional Police Academy at Johnson County Community College.
The academy trains officers for more than a dozen police forces around the Johnson County area and for state agencies, such as the bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Though the academy does not train Lawrence officers, he said all officers would use deadly force if a gun barrel were pointed at them.
That doesn’t change, Wolfskill said, if the person holding the gun is trying to commit suicide.
“Even if you’re getting that call of a possible suicide, it really doesn’t change anything if the person comes out of the trailer shooting at you,” he said.
Wolfskill said an officer in that situation would have one goal when firing: “To eliminate the threat.”
City Commissioner Sue Hack, who attended Olin’s Monday’s press conference, said she and other commissioners had been briefed on the shooting. She said she was confident it was handled properly.
“It’s a sad day,” she said.
Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said his office also would review the shooting.
Ken Wallace, owner of Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio, said Mace had cleaned his house in the past, and they were friends. He hadn’t been in contact with her much in the past year, he said.
“She was just – 99 percent of the time – she was a lot of fun to be around. She could keep the good times rolling, and once she was your friend, she’d defend you to the end,” he said. “I’ve been with her at times when things got a little tricky, but I was able at those times to keep things under control.”
Wallace said Mace probably looked at her confrontation with officers as an “adversarial situation.”
“This is a woman who did not respond well to authority figures,” he said.