A police officer shot and killed a 21-year-old man early Wednesday after he robbed a drugstore, fled the scene and pointed an assault rifle at two officers on the city's near-northeast side, police said.
The Allen County Coroner's Office identified the man as Stephen O'Neal Wattley II of Fort Wayne. The names of the two officers involved in the shooting were not released. Both officers were placed on a five-day paid administrative leave as part of standard procedure.
At 2:27 a.m. Wednesday, officers were called to an armed robbery at CVS Pharmacy, 2802 E. State Blvd., at Beacon Street.
According to police reports, Wattley entered the store and walked to the candy aisle, grabbing a bag of candy before walking toward the register.
As he approached the counter, he pulled a pistol-grip assault rifle and hid it behind his legs, said Raquel Foster, a Fort Wayne police spokeswoman.
Foster said Wattley placed the candy on the counter and then pointed the gun at the employee and demanded cash from the register. The employee told police he didn't know how much was taken but said the stolen money included mostly small bills and some change.
Wattley fled from the building with the rifle at his side, the employee told police.
As officers arrived, they saw a man matching the robber's description running south from CVS, Police Chief Rusty York said.
Officers chased Wattley toward Baldwin Creek Apartments in the 1900 block of Hobson Road. As two officers approached Building F, they found Wattley standing in the stairwell area on the second floor, York said.
Wattley seemed unfamiliar with the apartment complex, York said, and didn't realize that the top of the stairway was blocked, trapping him at the top of the stairs.
"He ran up the stairway and discovered it was boarded off," York said. "The officers were at the bottom of the stairs… then Wattley turned around and pointed the weapon at the officers."
One of the two officers fired his weapon at Wattley, striking him multiple times, York said.
"It was very appropriate in that circumstance for the officer to fire his weapon," York said. "He's a 31-year veteran of the police department. He's a very steady officer and has never been in any serious trouble."
In November, an apartment fire at Baldwin Creek displaced residents from 24 units in Building F – the same building where Wattley ran to Wednesday, Foster said.
Last year, there were three police-action shootings in Fort Wayne.
The Allen County Prosecutor's Office ruled that two of the shootings were justified. A third – the shooting death of Lucius Washington – remains under investigation, the prosecutor's office said.
Washington was shot May 18 in a neighborhood near West Main Street by Indiana State Police Trooper Seth W. Mann. Mann happened upon a group of people beating on another man on West Main Street in the early morning hours. When he turned his squad car around, some members of the group stayed at the location, but Washington walked off, police said.
Mann followed him, ordering him to stop. When Mann caught up with him, the two went to the ground in a brief scuffle and at some point Mann pulled his handgun and shot Washington, according to police.
"Every situation is different, but the important thing to realize is that action is so much quicker than reaction," York said. "When officers encounter an individual and don't take action, it can lead to a very dangerous situation."
York said that from the moment Wattley pointed his weapon in the direction of the two officers, the situation became a matter of life or death.
"Our officers are trained to take action at that point… I feel that the officer did what he had to do and very possibly saved his own life and the life of his partner," York said.
York said he does not believe Wattley fired his weapon – an assault rifle with a pistol grip – at any point during the robbery, while fleeing police or while in the apartment.
Wattley's death was the fifth homicide in Fort Wayne and Allen County this year.