The Texas police officer who shot and killed a 93-year-old woman in her home following a family dispute has been fired four days after the incident. Office Stephen Stem had been on administrative leave since the fatal shooting that left Pearlie Golden dead. Golden had a gun and refused to follow Stem’s orders to put the weapon down.
City officials in the small city of Hearne voted unanimously on Saturday to fire Stem. It was the Texas police officer’s second fatal shooting in a two-year career with the Hearne Police Department. In a December 2012 incident, which involved people firing guns in an apartment parking lot, Stem was not disciplined or charged with a crime after being cleared by the grand jury.
Texas police are investigating why the longtime resident of the small town was shot multiple times. Robertson Country District Attorney Coty Seigert says it is his understanding that the police were called to the home because a woman was threatening family members with a handgun. Shots were fired when she refused to put down the weapon after she fired two shots into the ground. Stem fired at least four times, hitting Golden twice. She died after transport to a local hospital.
The incident leading up to the 93-year-old Golden’s death apparently began after she failed a driver’s test. She became upset after her nephew would not give her the keys to her car. The nephew, Roy Johns, says his aunt became angry and got out her late husband’s handgun. Johns called 911 for assistance, hoping that officers experienced with handling such situations could calm her down.
Golden was known in the community as Ms. Sully, and community members say she was a sweet woman. The fatal shooting of the 93-year-old woman by Texas police has drawn an outraged response from the community of Hearne, which now expresses satisfaction that Stem has been fired. On Thursday about 100 people marched outside the police station, demanding that Stem be arrested and indicted, and residents crowded the hearing room yesterday as council members met in a closed session to review the case. Mayor Ruben Gomez said Stem was invited to the hearing, but did not attend on the advice of his attorney.
Golden’s late husband was a police officer in Hearne. She was a familiar figure in the community, often seen collecting cans in the neighborhood for recycling. Neighbors report that Golden saw every child as her own, and kids had to be on their good behavior when around Golden. Neighbor Phillip Dixon said he could remember being a kid and knowing he did not dare misbehave when away from home, because if Ms. Sully saw it she was going to tell his momma. Golden had no previous problems with the law, and the family had never had to call the police before.
Stem’s attorney said he is “fully confident” that the Texas police officer’s actions in shooting the 93-year-old woman were justified. According to standard procedure in an office-involved shooting, the case will be presented to a grand jury. Seigert said that process may take up to two months.
By Beth A. Balen