The problem began with a drunken fight, a shot fired. Guns and booze are never a really good mix.
Earlier in the evening, Choate and Musto were drinking at their favorite bar about a mile away and began fighting.
“They had gotten buzzed and [Musto] probably said something stupid because he’s a cocky dude,” Weddington said. “She pulled his card and left the restaurant.”
Back home, they fought some more until their fireworks escalated to a gunshot.
Deanne Choate was a 53-year-old mother, who looked pretty good on a motorcycle back then.
Not so much now, as she’s dead.
Deanne Choate was sleeping naked under the covers when a trio of cops flicked on the lights and came barreling into her bedroom with guns drawn, believing she posed a lethal threat.
The police officers from Gardner, Kansas, roused her awake and ordered her to show the gun her boyfriend told them she had fired. When she did that after throwing on a hoodie, police opened fire anyway, putting her to sleep for good.
The police officers, Robert Huff, Justin Mohney, and Jeff Breneman, went in hot for a reason. Their call included that whole gun thing, that Choate fired a shot. There’s a thing about people who fire a shot, when the cops respond. They’re going to be considered potential killers. First Rule of Policing kicks in, and, well, there’s a reason for it.
It was around 9:45 p.m. on March 26 last year when police responded to a 911 call by Choate’s boyfriend, Andrew Musto, claiming “she was under the influence of alcohol, may be suicidal and had a gun,” according to the civil lawsuit.
The document suggests cops arrived to neutralize “a disturbance with a gun at the home.”
“Neutralize” is a curious word. It’s unclear what it suggests, and it doesn’t have that warm and fuzzy feel to it that suggests a kindly effort at diffusing a situation. But it captures the idea that the three officers burst into Choate’s bedroom fearful of her gun and, perhaps, her lack of desire to live. There are few people more dangerous than someone who doesn’t care about survival.
It’s unremarkable that the first thing the police sought was the gun. So they asked for it.
“Where’s the gun?” one cop repeated, Weddington said. The civil lawsuit has the cops repeating the command: “We know you have a gun.”
Weddington said the cops were certain that—despite her barely awake, fully naked state—Choate was dangerous.
“They tell her, ‘Ma’am, you need to get out of bed so we can clear this room.’
“She says, ‘I’m 53 years old, I don’t just bounce out of bed.’”
As they hand her a hooded sweatshirt to cover herself, Weddington says Choate allegedly discovers the derringer under the covers and informs the cops.
“She says, ‘Oh, here it is.’
“She goes to lift her blanket and get up and the cop says ‘Drop the gun. Drop the fucking gun… Boom-boom-boom-boom.”
Was she holding the gun, pointing the gun, aiming the gun, such that the cops had a legitimate fear that she was about to shoot? It’s unclear. There was, apparently, body cam video of what happened, and it’s in the hands of Choate’s family, but hasn’t been made public, as far as I can tell. Choate’s son says the video shows that the cops never saw a gun until after they killed her, after the covers were lifted.
But then, what followed the killing strongly suggests cover-up, and if so, then it strongly suggests that there was something to cover up. A righteous shoot isn’t usually something cops want to mess with.
“When Theresa and I saw they had taken her from the bedroom and laid her by the front door after she was shot we were confused,” he said. “They moved her in there and they covered her with a red blanket and then the ambulance showed up.”
Among the things that should never happen, destroying the scene of a shooting ranks pretty high. This doesn’t happen. If she was alive, it would be a different story, as saving her life would justify disturbing the scene, but that’s not what happened here.
“They didn’t even do any lifesaving techniques,” Weddington said. “They grab her two arms and two legs and dragged her out into the hallway and then lay her there and leave her there until the paramedics get there.”
And when they do get a look at her the paramedics seem to be more concerned with the well-being of the cops. “They take her pulse for a total of two seconds and then they turn around and ask, ‘Is everybody else all right?’
“They don’t even attempt to save her life.”
There may be a less emotional reason for the failure to engage in life-saving efforts. But then, it may simply be a matter of local priorities.
That the boyfriend, Andrew Musto, cried out after the killing of Deanne Choate that they didn’t need to kill her is unsurprising, but also unavailing. Did he suspect, when he called 911 on her, told them that she was armed and possibly suicidal, that it was going to end in a rousing chorus of Kumbaya?
And yet, the point remains that the police commanded Deanne Choate to surrender her weapon. And then killed her for doing as she was told. If there was a particular way in which they wanted her to do so, for their protection as well as hers, then it was their job to tell her. Instead, they killed her for complying.
It’s still a really bad idea to get drunk and play with a gun. But for those blithering idiots who respond, “if the dead person just did what the cops told her to do,” Deanne Choate proves them wrong. Again.