NYPD Officers Scrutinized After Shooting Death of Unarmed Woman

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It's a difficult and somewhat confusing story: 23-year-old Shantel Davis was driving erratically on East 38th Street in East Flatbush Thursday afternoon in a 1998 Toyota Camry that police say she had stolen from 57-year-old Vilma Craig the week before. Plainclothes officer Daniel Guida and detective Phil Atkins were patrolling the area in an unmarked car when they noticed Davis speeding through red lights, and they followed her until she crashed. The New York Daily News says it's "not clear" whether the officers knew the vehicle was stolen when they approached it, but they say Davis immediately tried to flee the scene by sliding out of the passenger's side door. According to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, Davis hit Guida with the door in an attempt to exit, and then slid back to the driver's side, put the car in reverse, and hit the gas. Atkins, who was standing on the driver's side, tried to stop her. "He has his gun in one hand. He’s trying to reach the shift to move into park, and he’s halfway in and halfway out of the car as it’s moving backward," Browne said. "The weapon discharges one time." The bullet hit Davis in the chest, and she was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital Center.

In the aftermath, the Daily News discovered court papers showing that Davis had been "due in court Friday on charges stemming from an attack on April 23, 2011 — when she and a band of brutes allegedly held a man hostage as they robbed his Clarendon Road apartment." The New York Times points out her "extensive criminal history, including 8 arrests." However, Davis was unarmed when she died. City Councilman Jumaane Williams told the Huffington Post, "The record of the shooter, who reportedly has a number of outstanding civil rights complaints himself and carries an unfavorable reputation in the community, should be treated with the same level of consideration as the record of the deceased." He also questioned the cops' use of force, as did State Assemblyman Nick Perry before calling for an investigation into the matter. Guida and Atkins have been placed on administrative duty while internal affairs looks into shooting. Naturally, Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, is "confident our detective’s actions were appropriate and justified."

Meanwhile, tensions against police are rising in the Brooklyn neighborhood where the shooting took place. On the evening following the incident, residents reportedly chanted "murderers" at police — and their anger doesn’t seem misplaced, considering the alarming uptick in officers resorting to gun violence in recent months. Williams addressed the matter by issuing a statement early Friday morning which urges both the public and the police "to remain calm as the investigation moves forward."