RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The mother of a man who authorities say was killed by police after attacking an officer with an ax said Wednesday that he was a “sweet, gentle” person who dealt with “mental issues” in the past.
Officers fatally shot 23-year-old Alexander J. Schoessel in downtown Richmond on Tuesday morning after the man, wearing nothing but a kilt and combat-style boots, refused to drop an ax and long knife, police said.
Schoessel’s mother told The Associated Press that her son’s actions were out of character and that his family is struggling to deal with his sudden death. Richelle Tucker spoke of “mental issues” in the man’s past, but declined to elaborate.
“He was known by all his friends as being a very sweet, gentle young man, not the kind of person who would harm someone,” Tucker said. “His loss is very large in our family and he will be greatly missed.”
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A 12-year veteran of the Richmond police force was wounded when he got caught in the line of fire, police said. John Rotondi, 43, was hit in his protective vest and treated at a local hospital before being released, police said.
The two officers who shot Schoessel — Nicholas Pechstein and Joshua Sanborn — were placed on administrative leave, police said.
Police say officers encountered the man after receiving complaints from several locations around town Tuesday morning. They say officers tried to get him to drop his weapons, using “de-escalation techniques” and deploying a Taser, but he wouldn’t comply.
“Although it is early in our investigation, from what I’ve seen and heard, these officers behaved with the utmost professionalism and courage,” said Police Chief Alfred Durham said in a statement Wednesday. “I believe they acted with restraint until they were called upon to use greater force.”
Taryn Kelly, who witnessed the shooting, said the man was acting erratically, kicking his legs in the air and waving the weapons at one officer in particular before he was shot. Kelly said she could hear the officers giving the man orders and could see them trying to de-escalate the situation.
“It definitely wasn’t a police brutality thing,” Kelly said. “I knew what was going to happen when I saw him attacking them, basically.”
Associated Press reporter Sarah Rankin contributed to this report.
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