Supporters of Durham man killed in police standoff speak out

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Sunday, September 13, 2015
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Durham police revealed that the armed man killed in a police standoff on Sept. 5 was carrying an Airsoft air gun, which officers mistook for a real gun.

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Supporters of a Durham man who was fatally shot by police during a standoff last week are speaking out.

On Friday, Durham activists stood in front of the home in the 1700 block of Angier Avenue where police bullet holes are still clearly visible almost a week after La'vante Trevon Biggs was killed, questioning whether police could have handled the situation differently.

Last Saturday morning, the 21-year-old called 911, saying he was going to commit suicide.

Biggs' mother, Shanika Biggs, also called 911 and told dispatchers her son was sitting on the porch with "a big, black gun."

Durham police revealed Thursday that Biggs was carrying an Airsoft air gun, which officers mistook for a real gun.

Authorities said they began firing at Biggs once he started walking toward the officers. Police described Biggs as taking "fast" and "aggressive" steps toward them.

Four officers fired their weapons. Biggs was taken to Duke Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities said it was only when they began collecting evidence that they discovered Biggs' gun was a replica Airsoft air gun, which they said closely resembled a real gun.

In an interview with ABC11 after the shooting, Shanika Biggs said she told investigators her son had been depressed about a recent breakup and not seeing his children.

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She, along with activists Friday, question whether police did enough to talk La'vante Biggs down.

During a press conference Friday, activists demanded to know how police deal with what has become commonly known as "suicide by cop."

DPD's Public Information Officer Kammie Michael told ABC11 officers are trained for these situations.

"Officers received training in this area in the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) academy," Michael explained. "We have 17 hostage negotiators. All of these are experienced officers who are carefully selected. They all undergo psychological testing. They take various courses in areas such as crisis management, hostage taking, listening skills. The basic course is 40 hours. Members of the hostage negotiation team also do frequent in-service trainings and cross train with our Selective Enforcement Team. All negotiators are CIT-trained."

The activists also questioned why police didn't go around to the side or back doors of the boarding house where La'vante Biggs was shot to let others inside know they might be in danger.

Michael said authorities tried to call the house twice, but no one responded.

"Officers determined that is was not safe to approach the house," Michael said.

One of the residents has said he was in the room where bullet holes are still visible, and is lucky to be alive.

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