Army Sgt. Prince Gavin was moving from Tacoma on the day he was shot and killed by a police officer, his girlfriend said Saturday.
Tacoma police released no new details Saturday about the shooting, but Gavin’s girlfriend, Nicole Lee, said she believes it resulted from a misunderstanding over Gavin’s concealed weapon.
Lee, who had been dating Gavin for more than six months, said her boyfriend lived at the apartment on South Mildred Street where police responded to a domestic-violence call Friday afternoon. She said his ex-girlfriend was helping him move and believed the two of them got into an argument. The two had been arguing in recent days, she said.
Responding officers found no one at the South Mildred address but believed that one person reportedly involved lived at a home on the 800 block of South M Street, which Lee said is the residence of Gavin’s ex-girlfriend.
Once another officer arrived there, Police Chief Don Ramsdell said Friday, he spotted Gavin getting out of a truck. Gavin spotted the officer and ran toward the house, the chief said, leading to a confrontation between the officer and Gavin that led the officer to fire his service weapon. Investigators later found a .45-caliber handgun by Gavin’s body, although it was unclear whether he had pointed the gun at the officer.
“My understanding was (the gun) was in his hand when he got out of his truck and ran toward the house,” Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Saturday. “What took place after that, I don’t know.”
Lee said Gavin, originally from Chicago, was a nonconfrontational individual who would never draw a weapon unless he needed to defend himself.
“He’s really a square-bear, nerdy guy that follows the rules,” said Lee, 34, of Tacoma. “He’s a good citizen. He’s a model citizen.”
Lee said Gavin, a combat medic who twice deployed to Iraq while stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, carried the weapon for protection, but was always very careful with it and had a permit. He was transferring to Fort Carson, Colo., at the time of his death. He had been assigned to the 17th Fires Brigade at Lewis-McChord.
“He has a reality check on the world that we don’t have,” she said of his combat service.
Lee, who was not present at the scene of the shooting, believes Gavin was attempting to alert the officer of his concealed weapon and might have been trying to place it on the ground.
The officer was in the middle of the street, and Gavin was shot and collapsed on the porch. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Saturday that Gavin was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest.
The officer, who has been on the force for about five years, is on paid administrative leave – standard procedure when an officer uses deadly force on the job – and will be interviewed by investigators this week. Fulghum said Saturday that the name of the officer wasn’t being released to give him time to notify family members and others of the incident.
The police chief said initial indications were the officer acted reasonably and within department guidelines for using deadly force. It’s the second time the officer has been involved in a shooting, Ramsdell said, although he didn’t know the details of the prior incident.
Lee said she had texted Gavin on Friday afternoon and hadn’t received a response, which was unusual for him. Early Saturday morning, she had a girlfriend drive her to the South M Street address where she learned about his death from an officer on the scene.
Lee said they had spent the summer together after he briefly returned to his ex-girlfriend and were looking forward to continuing a long-distance relationship when he moved to Colorado.
“We had a future that we were just going to get started and it was taken from me,” she email@example.com