via Daily Mail
A mentally ill Missouri woman committed suicide by shooting herself in the head with a police officer’s gun while getting a ride to a local hospital in a squad car on Wednesday.
The St. Louis County Police Department said Stephanie Hicks, 20, got into a struggle with an Alton police officer over his weapon.
Hicks’ former boyfriend Eric Perry said she had been dealing with a bi-polar disorder and decided to seek professional help, according to the TV station KSDK.
On Wednesday morning, she set out on foot in the sweltering heat from her home in Alton toward Christian Northeast Hospital about nine-and-a-half miles away.
An officer found Hicks walking across the Clark Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River at Alton, and called for an EMS crew to examine her, St. Louis Today reported.
Alton Police Chief David Hayes said on Thursday that Hicks was not suicidal on the bridge, but simply trying to reach the hospital. She was medically cleared by the paramedics.
At around 9am, the officer pulled over and asked Hicks if she needed a ride. The 20-year-old got into the front seat because the back of the car is for prisoners, and Hicks was not in custody.
‘In the back seat of those police cars, whatever the temperature is outside it’s usually 15 to 20 degrees hotter inside,’ Hayes said.
While it is not customary for Alton police officers to offer citizens courtesy rides, the officer called his commanding officer and received permission to drive Hicks, who was apparently known to the department.
When the vehicle reached Dunn Road and Highway 367, officials said the woman unexpectedly grabbed the pistol carried in a holster on the policeman’s right hip.
Police said the officer told them Hicks didn’t say anything in the car before unsnapping his holster and shooting herself.
She was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where she died from her injury.
The patrol car was equipped with a video camera, Hayes said, but it is wired to the emergency lights and was not running. The officer turned on the lights after the shooting, and the camera captured the tragic aftermath.
The officer driving Hicks is a 13-year veteran on the Alton police force. He’s been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
Hayes emphasized that the unnamed officer did not violate department procedures.
However, the victim’s relatives have expressed anger at the police, questioning how a 5-foot-1-inch woman who weighed only about 80 pounds managed to wrestle a gun away from the officer.
‘She got that gun and there’s no way she should have got that gun,’ the victim’s mother, Robin Hicks, told Fox 2 Now. ‘And I’m angry, and I’m pissed, and this is not right!’
- For confidential support call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or see http://www.samaritans.org
- In the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255