CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) - Chesapeake police say that a 19-year-old woman who shot herself during a traffic stop was handcuffed at the time of her suicide.
Sarah Wilson shot herself in the head during a July 25 traffic stop near the intersection of Berkley Avenue and Wilson Road, said Chesapeake police spokesman Leo Kosinski.
Wilson was the passenger of a white 1996 Lexus that was stopped by police around 4:24 p.m. The car's driver, Holden Medlin, was arrested following the incident, according to court documents.
"The police told me that they had been surveilling the driver in particular that day, I don't know for how long, and they decided they were going to call a uniformed officer to do a traffic stop so it was anything but routine," said Sarah's mother Dawn Wilson.
During the stop, officers approached Sarah Wilson and Medlin separately. One officer handcuffed Wilson with her hands behind her back, while others tried to detain Medlin, Kosinski said.
Dawn Wilson says she still has a lot of questions about how this could have happened and wants answers.
"It doesn't make sense and even if it did, even if it was true, which I don't believe, there's still a huge level of negligence on their part," she added.
Police say the 27-year-old driver became combative and tried to flee the scene. The officer who detained Sarah Wilson left her handcuffed outside of the car's passenger side and went to assist in Medlin's arrest, which involved police using a Taser to subdue him, Kosinski said.
During his struggle with police, Medlin swallowed a "golf ball size bag" with an unknown substance in it, according to court documents.
It was during the officers' struggle with Medlin that Wilson was able to get the gun and shoot herself. At the time of her suicide, Wilson was still wearing handcuffs. Kosinski could not confirm how Wilson was able to access the gun, but said that it was not a police weapon.
"Why is there no accountability for the situation? These procedures are in place so people are safe, the people on the street, the police, and the people in custody," Wilson questioned after hearing the explanation.
"We would want to have an officer with every suspect at the time, but when a suspect becomes combative it becomes a safety issue," Kosinski said.
One Chesapeake officer was wearing a body camera at the time of the traffic stop. The officer activated the body camera, but it was knocked off during the struggle with Medlin. The camera hit the ground in a way that turned it "offline," preventing it from recording. After Medlin was detained, the officer reattached the body camera and turned it back on to record, Kosinski said.
The camera was off at the time of Wilson's suicide, and did not capture her death.
"It was due to the suspect's actions that the camera was kicked offline," Kosinski said. The department has declined to release the body camera footage while its internal and criminal investigations are underway.
Kosinski said police had probable cause to stop Medlin and Wilson. Police searched Medlin and found 11 oxycodone, suboxone and a syringe on him, court documents state.
He was arrested and charged with possession of oxycodone, suboxone and paraphernalia, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm with schedule I or II drugs and fleeing from police.
Medlin's arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 13 in Chesapeake General District Court. He declined to speak with 10 On Your Side. Police believe that he and Wilson were in a romantic relationship.
The police department's Ethics and Conduct Unit is conducting an internal investigation into Wilson's death. Kosinski said that the investigation is standard procedure after officers witness a person's death. He could not confirm how many officers were on the scene of the traffic stop, but said none have been put on administrative or disciplinary leave.
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