Fresno, CA – A former Oakdale police chief and 32-year veteran of the Fresno Police Department was fatally shot by Fresno officers on Monday, after he charged at them with a 12-inch knife.
Retired Oakdale Police Chief Marty West, 63, had been struggling with “mental health issues” for the past several months, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said during a press conference.
West had also served on the Fresno Police Department for 32 years before he retired at the rank of captain in 2007, The Fresno Bee reported.
“He’s been a longtime friend of mine,” Chief Dyer said during the press conference. The men were also relatives.
West had commanded the agency’s northeast district prior to his retirement, and some of the officers who responded to the scene after he was shot had served under his command, Chief Dyer said.
The incident began at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 12, when West’s wife called Fresno police to report that her husband “had cut himself… had blood on his arms, and he was trying to kill himself,” according to Chief Dyer.
A Fresno police corporal and a trainee officer with three months on the job responded to the couple’s home and met with the woman outside before they proceeded to the front door of the house.
West’s wife told them that he was still armed with a large knife when she last saw him.
As the officers went to the front door and opened it, they saw West standing in a “pool of blood” inside the doorway, Chief Dyer explained.
The former police chief “immediately” jumped up with the knife in his hand, and “charged out of the front door at both of the officers,” Chief Dyer said.
The corporal discharged his Taser, but it had “little to no effect” because one of the darts hit the retired chief in the belt, he explained.
West, who had a large knife wound to the left side of his neck, continued to charge at the officers with the blade held in front of him, and was within several feet of the trainee officer, who then fired two rounds.
“These officers had absolutely no other choice but to not only use the Taser, but when the Taser failed, to utilize the firearm,” Chief Dyer said.
“Both of them were absolutely shocked and surprised when the door opened and Marty came charging out, covered in blood, armed with a knife, and was within a few feet of the officers,” he added.
Despite the lifesaving efforts of both officers and emergency medical personnel, the former police chief died at the scene.
West joined the Fresno Police Department when he was 19 years old, The Fresno Bee reported.
During the three decades that followed, he served as a patrol officer, night shift detective, field training officer, internal affairs investigator, and field supervisor.
He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1994, and thereafter commanded the Central and Northeast Districts. He also established the agency’s Citizens on Patrol Program and the Help Eliminate Auto Theft team.
Following his retirement, Chief West served as the top cop for the Oakdale Police Department for five additional years, before retiring in March of 2012, The Fresno Bee reported.
“He was always a very in-control guy,” former Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson told the paper. “He was a great chief… everyone spoke highly of him.”
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said West was “an excellent chief and a good friend. I truly enjoyed working with him.”
“This incident is both heartbreaking and tragic,” Sheriff Christianson continued. “Once again, we see the devastating effects of mental illness and realize that we need to continue expanding services and treatment for those who need help.”
Chief Dyer said that West’s family members had tried to get him help for his recent mental health issues, and that they had removed all of the firearms from his home.
His wife and neighbors did everything they could think of to help him, Chief Dyer said.
“Everyone has tried to reach out and do everything they can for Marty and unfortunately – for whatever reason today – he decided to take his life,” the chief explained. “It’s hard to understand.”