Cops shoot suicidal burglar

The Chico police officer who shot a suspected burglar last week was exonerated of any wrongdoing and allowed to return to duty Wednesday, after a team of investigators from various local law enforcement agencies found he believed he was acting in defense of his fellow officers.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who heads up such investigations, said officer Andre Carlisle, who has been on the force for nine years, made a “split-second, critical” decision to shoot Phillip Dwayne Henman after Henman pulled out a “rather large hunting knife” while he was cornered in the cab of a pickup truck.

The incident occurred just after 9:30 p.m. Friday, when officers responded to a silent alarm call at Chico Electric, an electrical contracting firm located on West Eaton Road in North Chico. Four officers, including a dog handler, searched the property after they noticed a gate had been left unlocked and the back door to the company’s headquarters was ajar.

The search of the building turned up nothing, but during a subsequent search of the equipment yard, officers heard a sound they believed came from underneath one of the company’s heavy-duty work trucks. As officers surrounded the truck, the police dog on the scene became fixated on the truck’s cab, indicating to the officers that a suspect was hiding inside.

As the officers approached, they could see a “prone figure with a sweatshirt pulled over the top of his head,” according to Ramsey. “They shouted to the person inside that they could see him and to bring his hands up. ‘Show us your hands’ was the repeated command.”

The figure did not respond, so the K-9 officer opened the driver’s-side door.

Henman, who was in the truck, later told investigators that up to that point he had assumed he was hiding from private security guards and thus might have a chance to escape. When he realized he was dealing with the police, he “made a decision that he didn’t want to go to prison and took a knife that he had on himself—a rather large hunting knife—out of its sheath on his belt with the intent to commit suicide,” Ramsey reported.

Officers immediately shouted for Henman to drop the knife. But instead, Henman reportedly raised himself to a sitting position and brought the weapon up and across his body, so that the blade rested against his throat.

The officers on the driver’s side and in front of the truck apparently recognized Henman’s intent, but Carlisle, on the passenger side, saw only a blur of action and a knife “sweeping” toward where the K-9 officer was standing.

“Perceiving that that officer was in danger, that the man was attempting to stab that officer, [Carlisle] shot one round,” Ramsey said.

The bullet shattered the passenger window and entered the right side of Henman’s back, hitting his spine. Henman was handcuffed and given CPR then rushed to Enloe Medical Center for treatment.

When interviewed by police, Henman, who is expected to fully recover, reportedly told them he had been living in a stolen truck with stolen license plates for about a month, committing burglaries for money. He is apparently a long-time drinker and methamphetamine user who was wanted on a felony bench warrant for failing to pay some $27,000 in child support for his 13-year-old daughter. A cache of stolen goods from a burglary committed earlier Friday night was recovered, as was the pickup truck he had been living in. He will face charges related to the alleged burglaries, as well as for his outstanding child support warrant.