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Police shooting probe must be thorough, swift

Anytime police officers are involved in a use-of-force incident, countless questions exist that require prompt investigation and answers.

That becomes even more pressing when a fatality occurs, as did in the shooting of David Lee Rigg, 44, late Monday night after a standoff with Warren police at Rigg’s southwest side Warren home.

Emergency dispatch transmissions and police reports that so far have been released indicate that Rigg had been in contact with people outside the home during a nearly two-hour standoff and that he earlier had made mention of “suicide by cop.” Audio on a cellphone recording taken by a neighbor as the incident unfolded that night projects the sound of about eight simultaneous shots ringing out as Rigg exited the house shortly before midnight Monday. Lighting is too poor in the video to indicate whether Rigg was carrying a weapon — or anything else — in his hands.

Now his friends and neighbors just want answers.

It’s possible that Rigg really did want to die at the hands of police. One relative told our reporter that an angry and determined Rigg phoned her in the moments leading up to his death. He relayed that police were going to have to kill him and that he was not going back to prison.

Another friend, however, described his phone call that night from Rigg differently. He said Rigg told him he just wanted to get out of the house. He described seeing Rigg exit the house with his hands empty and one hand in the air before he was shot to death.

The friends and relatives noted that Rigg normally took prescription medication, and when he was off the medication “he could be abusive.”

Indeed, that may have been true as officers were first called to the home on reports that he had been assaulting his girlfriend.

We may never know exactly what Rigg was thinking that night. It’s likely we will know, by autopsy results, if he had been taking any medication leading up to the shooting. The Trumbull County Coroner’s Office has transferred Rigg’s body to Cleveland for an autopsy that is expected to be done today by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner.

And there are so many other questions that must be answered — chief among them is whether Rigg had been carrying a gun Monday night when he left the house that was surrounded by police officers.

Of course, the public also has a right to know who are the officers that were involved. That will lead to further questions such as how long have they served as police officers or what special training have they had for incidents like this. So far, city officials are refusing to release the names of the officers, citing terms spelled out in the police union labor contract.

Warren’s leaders were correct in calling in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, an arm of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, to investigate the shooting. We understand the importance of a thorough, unbiased investigation.

Likewise, we insist that this investigation must be handled with a sense of urgency. A Warren man is dead. The family deserves swift answers.

Four Warren police officers are now on paid administrative leave. The taxpayers also deserve answers.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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