Family, friends question shooting of 83-year-old

Published 1:43 am Wednesday, October 9, 2002

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
One week after a Department of Public Safety tactical team member shot an 83-year-old, family and community members are questioning why it happened.
James Thompson, of 765 Whispering Pine Road in McCall, was shot by a member of a tactical team after a 14 hour standoff. The standoff began when the Escambia County Sheriff's Office received reports of Thompson shooting at passing vehicles.
Deputies called in the ADPS tactical team after Thompson locked himself in his house and would not respond to repeated orders to exit the house and give himself up. In the early morning hours, two cans of tear gas were fired into the house at 30-minute intervals. Thompson allegedly exited the house shooting a shotgun at law enforcement officers.
Some people in the community, especially Thompson's family, are questioning why the authorities pushed the elderly man to exit the home.
James' sister Pat Baker said her older brother did have a history of mental illness, but added that it did not include any violent behavior.
Baker also said that she felt the tactical team could have "waited out" her brother.
William Thompson said he feels the situation on Whispering Pine Road grew out of control.
ADPS Col. James Alexander said that proper protocol was used in the incident.
According to ADPS officials, protocol for a situation like this begins with verbal negotiations. That is followed with non-lethal force such as tear gas. If that fails, and officers feel that are being faces with an "immediate threat of deadly force or injury than deadly force becomes necessary."
ECSO Sheriff Tim Hawsey said the tactical team was called in because they are trained to deal with those situations.
Alexander said the situation in McCall was unfortunate, but added that proper protocol was used.
There was a report that one official may have been wounded when Thompson exited the house. However, ADPS would not confirm or deny that report, citing that the investigation is ongoing.
The investigation into the shooting will involve the Escambia County Sheriff's Office and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. The results of the investigation will be submitted to the Escambia County District Attorney.
Hawsey said the incident was unfortunate.
William Thompson said his brother had become increasingly agitated at vehicles breaking the 35 mile per hour speed limit on the road in front of his house and that they may be what triggered the incident.
The family attended funeral services for Thompson on Friday.
Since the shooting, William Thompson said he has been approached by many people.