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A police officer who killed a flagpole-wielding man in Louisville, Kentucky, appeared justified in using deadly force, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said Sunday.
"The officer believed his life was being threatened," Conrad said at a news conference, adding that the shooting — which was captured in dramatic surveillance video at a nearby grocery store — was still being investigated and that the officer, 10-year veteran patrol Officer Nathan Blanford, wasn't treated for any injuries and hadn't yet been interviewed by investigators.
Blanford was dispatched to the Old Louisville neighborhood about 2 p.m. ET after a 911 caller reported witnessing an assault. A man was seen grabbing and throwing a woman's purse and cellphone on the street, Conrad said. Then, the man punched her.
In the surveillance video, Blanford is seen pulling up at an intersection next to a man walking on the sidewalk. Blanford slowly approaches the man, whom police refused to identify Sunday night. After what appears to be a brief argument, the man quickly walks away from the officer and out of view of the security camera.
Moments later, the man appears back on the screen, "essentially sprinting toward our officer," Conrad said, and swinging what he described as a seven- to eight-foot flagpole "in a sledgehammer-like motion."
Blanford "retreated" twice, Conrad said, and then fired twice, striking the man.
"Looking at the video," Conrad said, Blanford "didn't have the opportunity to transition" to a "less lethal option."
The man was taken to the University of Louisville Hospital, where he died. Conrad said it was unclear whether he was the same man who'd been identified by the 911 caller.
Conrad noted that the man was staggering, saying it wasn't known whether he was intoxicated. "Being intoxicated would not be a defense if you were to use force against somebody," he said.
But "the suspect was essentially running towards our officer waving a flagpole," he said. "The last thing any officer wants to do is to take a life."
During Conrad's three-year tenure as chief, Louisville officers have shot 17 people, killing six, Conrad said. In the 10 cases that have been resolved, eight of the officers were found to have been justified. In the two others, one officer was disciplined and one resigned, with criminal charges pending.