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‘Use non-lethal force’: Widow from Fairbanks Trooper shooting asks for change in law enforcement practices

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 4:14 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Tears of anger and sorrow filled the Fairbanks Police Department parking lot Saturday afternoon during a rally against police and law enforcement brutality.

Interior residents rallied against police brutality Saturday afternoon near the Fairbanks...
Interior residents rallied against police brutality Saturday afternoon near the Fairbanks Police Department.(Sarah Hollister)

Several dozen community members prayed before marching from the police station to the Fairbanks courthouse.

Lisa McEnulty, a widow, is no stranger to the pain caused by a family member killed by law enforcement. Her late husband, Kevin McEnulty, was killed by Alaska State Troopers in 2019.

Lisa wants to bring awareness to the community about law enforcement killings. She said understands there are bad apples in the department and doesn’t want to defund the police, but she would like to allocate the funds to organizations for mental health and substance abuse.

“We demand justice and we demand change. We demand state funding to go towards organizations that are helping with addiction and mental illness. We demand less-lethal force. We demand body cams externally stored for attorney and civilian oversite. We demand that police don’t investigate their fellow officers when faced with a misconduct,” Lisa said.

The shooting death of Kevin McEnulty

Kevin McEnulty was killed by Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Aaron Mobley and Trooper Michael Kay on March 31st, 2019.

Pictured here: Lisa and Kevin McEnulty. Kevin was killed by law enforcement after suffering a...
Pictured here: Lisa and Kevin McEnulty. Kevin was killed by law enforcement after suffering a mental health break and firing a gun into the air.(Lisa McEnulty)

According to the Use of Deadly Force Review, the Alaska State Troopers (AST) received a report that Kevin allegedly pointed his gun at a woman and fired a shot into the air earlier that day. Kevin was located by law enforcement in a car outside of the McDonald’s on Geist Road.

After being surrounded by law enforcement, Kevin, who was still in the car, asked to see Fairbanks Police Officer Gerrit Butler and gave a phone number to call. Butler, who wasn’t on shift at the time, said he had met with Kevin before, and they had built a rapport.

Kevin also asked for his wife, Lisa McEnulty, to be called.

The review said Kevin yelled out the car he wanted to die and then kept yelling, “kill me,” and told the officers he had a gun.

Trooper Sergeant Mobley said that after he saw Kevin’s gun, a black semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine, he decided to switch from his pistol to his AR-15. Sgt. Mobley said Kevin looked “amped up” and “agitated.”

Kevin got out of his car and started to walk back and forth towards the roadway. Troopers on the scene say he looked intoxicated and could be seen swaying. At this time officers blocked the street on Geist Road and told McDonald’s workers to move away from the restaurant windows.

He yelled to officers, “You are going to have to shoot me,” while pointing a gun at his temple, followed by, “I’m not going back to jail.”

Troopers continued to ask him to put the gun down.

Kevin allegedly raised his gun into the air, then lowered it and looked directly down the barrel before yelling, “I’m sorry.”

A.S.T. reported Kevin continued to pace around alternately moving the gun up to his head then down to his side. Sgt. Mobley described Kevin bringing his off-hand to the base of the gun and raising the gun in the air with his finger on the trigger. He said that Kevin “looked around as if surveying the area and fired a shot into the air.”

At this point Trooper Kay and Sgt. Mobley fired their guns at Kevin. Kevin ducked his head slightly and covered his face, gun still in hand. Additional shots were fired by both Troopers, killing Kevin.

According to the Use of Force Review, Sgt. Mobley said he thought after Kevin fired his gun into the air, “I was going to be next,” or that Kevin would shoot rounds into McDonald’s.

Sgt. Mobley said he ‘fired three or four times’ at Kevin. After Kevin was still standing with the gun in his hand, Sgt. Mobley fired again, citing he was worried Kevin would turn and start firing at them, so he fired a second volley and stopped after Kevin fell to the ground.

In the Use of Force Review, Trooper Kay remembered Kevin looking at each of the Troopers and the officers present and said he was “pretty freaked out” when Kevin looked at him because his head and face were exposed. He thought if Kevin did shoot him, it would be fatal.

Trooper Kay said he heard the first gunshots but didn’t know if Sgt. Mobley was being shot at or another officer. At that point, he said he decided to pull the trigger, firing two shots at Kevin. After seeing Kevin still standing, he said he thinks he fired an additional four shots.

Kevin was shot 8 minutes after exiting his car.

In the Use of Force Review, Kevin Clarkson, the Attorney General of Alaska, cleared the Troopers of any wrongdoing, stating, “Based on the totality of the circumstances, both Sgt. Mobley’s and Trp. Kay’s belief that deadly force was necessary to stop an imminent danger to the lives of themselves, their fellow officers, and the people in the McDonald’s was reasonable. Sgt. Mobley’s and Trp. Kay’s use of deadly force was therefore legally justified in this situation.”

According to the medical examiner, Kevin had a blood alcohol concentration of .305 and his blood also contained Methamphetamine.

Lisa McEnutly said she wished the Troopers involved would have used non-lethal force.

“What I wish was different about that situation is that they exhausted all their alternatives before using lethal force,” Lisa said. “Actually talking to him, having a connection, and trying to understand his mental state at the time. Because he was asking for me, he was asking for police, and they just shot to kill. Lethal force.”

Lisa McEnulty said at the time, her husband was going through depression and had relapsed on drugs and alcohol. He also has a family history of suicide and had struggled with it for some time.

Lisa and others at the rally hope to change law enforcement encounters with someone struggling with suicide to be non-lethal.

“I heard them (on the police radio saying}) ‘he has a gun, he has a gun!’” Lisa explained, “Instead (of saying he has a gun) I would like them to communicate with each other and get a guideline… saying, ‘Ok, can we use rubber bullets? Can we talk to him? Can we get his wife here? Can we calm him down?’ That kind of guidelines.”

Crisis Now Framework

Those kinds of guidelines may be on the way. The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority recently awarded grants of $930,000 to the Fairbanks community to improve the area’s response to mental health crises.

Those involved with the grant are working to develop a mobile crisis response team to be on scene when someone reports a mental health crisis.

According to the Mental Health Trust website, “Law enforcement and EMS response sometimes results in negative outcomes for the person experiencing the crisis, unnecessary violence, or additional trauma.”

Katie Baldwin-Johnson, the Senior Program Officer with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority explained, “Law enforcement, while they work very hard at their training in terms of responding and understanding mental health symptoms and situations, that’s not their primary role.”

The program is expected to be up and running by August of 2021. More info about the grant and the Crisis Now Framework can be found on the Alaska Mental Health Trust website.

Lisa McEnulty said she got a degree in social work and a minor in behavioral health to help others with trauma and mental health issues like her husband’s. She plans to remain an activist against law enforcement brutality and plans to go into law school next year.

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