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Death ruled ‘suicide by cop’
Written by Greg Ruland   
Saturday, 09 July 2011 00:00

Police granted a 62-year-old woman’s death wish when a Cottonwood Police Department patrol officer shot her with a rifle April 2, according to police records released June 27.

An internal affairs investigation concluded officer Steve Phoenix did not use excessive force when he shot Betty Shanafelt after she threatened police with a pistol as neaby spectators looked on.

An internal affairs investigation concluded Cottonwood Police Department officer Steve Phoenix did not use excessive force when he shot Betty Shanafelt after she threatened police with a pistol as neaby spectators looked on.Shanafelt died of wounds received when Phoenix shot her three times after she told police she planned a “suicide by cop” and raised her pistol as if to shoot, the report stated.

The incident began when police responded to a call from one of Shanafelt’s neighbors around 3:30 p.m. April 2. The neighbor reported Shanafelt was holding a handgun and threatening suicide in the 600 block of North Main Street, outside a trailer park located near Riverfront Park.

As two police officers and a police sergeant surrounded the woman in a triangle formation, Shanafelt moved toward one, then another, with her hand on a pistol holstered at her hip.

At one point, she told an officer she attempted to kill herself the night before but was unable to do it.

“Shoot me. Kill me. You’re going to have to do it for me,” she said.

“No, I’m not going to do that. Take your hand off the gun,” the officer told her.

“If you don’t do it, then you’ll do it,” she said, referring to each officer. When one refused, she turned to another and asked, “What about you?”

“You guys are going to shoot me and it’s going to be suicide by cop,” Shanafelt said, according to police records.

Police twice attempted to stun her using Taser weapons. The first attempt sailed over Shanafelt’s shoulder. The second attempt failed when only one prong of the Taser struck her but did not stun her.

When Shanafelt saw the Taser wires go past her, she turned her head toward the officer who fired and glared at him, according to the report.

At this point, Shanafelt started to draw the weapon from her holster in a motion described by witnesses as “shooting from the hip.”

Had Phoenix not killed the woman when he did, she would have shot at one of the officers, witnesses said.

A criminal investigation conducted by Arizona Department of Public Safety cleared Phoenix of any wrongdoing.

Neighbors told police Shanafelt lost her job and was selling personal items to pay bills. During an incident in March when Shanafelt first told police she wanted to kill herself, she reportedly refused to seek assistance from local social service organizations because they would not allow her to wear her handgun.


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