Witness: Deputies were backing away from suspect at Costco shoot - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Witness: Deputies were backing away from suspect at Costco shooting

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STERLING, Va. -

One witness says sheriff’s deputies who were confronting a knife-wielding woman in a Costco store in Sterling, Va., Wednesday, were slowly backing away from the woman when one of the deputies discharged his weapon.

Several witnesses have said the officer fired about five shots after a failed attempt to control the woman with a high-voltage Taser. Normally when a person is hit with Taser darts, the victim falls to the ground and is unable to move for about five seconds. That did not happen in this case. On Wednesday, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman told reporters that the ineffectiveness of the Taser would be part of the investigation of the incident.

The woman who was killed was 38-year-old Mhai Scott of Sterling, Va. She was working for an outside company that had hired her to hand samples of pizza to Costco customers.

Farhan Iqbal, who has just graduated from West Virginia University with an engineering degree, was a customer in the store at the time of the shooting. Iqbal says he had sampled a piece of pizza that the woman was handing out. Her demeanor, said Iqbal, was visibly unhappy.

“I mean, she just looked grumpy,” recalled Iqbal during an interview. “Like, she looked like she didn’t want to be there. Like, she didn’t want to be working. She made no eye contact … I could tell she was disturbed.”

The Loudoun County sheriff says the woman held onto a knife, and advanced toward the two deputies who had responded to the food section of the store, after police received a call for a disorderly person.

Iqbal saw part of the final incident: “I heard some yelling, and I saw some officers backing up with their guns and Taser in, like, an armed position.”

When we asked if they were backing away, he said, “Yeah, they were backing away. And I saw one officer got shot, and he fell on the ground. Fell backwards. That’s all I saw. I turned around and I just started running then.”

The injured deputy was treated and released from a local hospital.

Although Virginia State Police are assisting in the investigation, the lead agency probing the incident is the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. A spokeswoman for the State Police says local departments have the option of handing off such cases to the state agency, but the Sheriff’s Office in Loudoun County is choosing to remain in charge of the probe.

Costco customers have varying reactions to that decision. Barb Jones told us:

“It might be good to have an independent source, also. That can’t hurt.”

Costco customer John Kolego holds the opposite opinion: “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It’s a local incident, someone obviously went a little nuts, and the officers did what they had to do to protect themselves. I don’t know why the state would get involved other than to waste money on it.”

Both deputies involved are on paid administrative leave, pending the results of the investigation. That is routine in most police agencies when a death occurs.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Michael Chapman said security video would be part of the probe. There are (what appear to be) some security cameras inside the store, but those cameras seem to be concentrated in the jewelry department, which is far from the food section of the store.


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