PURCELLVILLE, Va. (WUSA9) -- The family of 17-year-old Christian Sierra can't understand why a Purcellville police officer killed him.
Police were answering a 9-1-1 suicide attempt call when the shooting happened on Saturday at 2:12 p.m. Virginia State Police said in a statement that "When an officer arrived on the scene and approached the male subject, the subject, armed with a knife, lunged at the officer." But now the VSP is investigating the shooting to determine whether the officer followed policy or made a mistake.
The family believes it was improperly handled.
"When somebody gets a call for help, a suicide, suicide attempt, you don't go help them finish the job," said John Paul Posado who is an uncle of the slain teen.
Christian's father is fuming thinking about the officer's decision to shoot. "He's an officer. He's a big guy. You have a kid coming after me with a little knife and you could've even run to the side. You couldn't do something different? But not to straight kill him," said Eduardo Sierra, Christian's father.
A witness who heard the shooting is also perplexed. "I heard somebody calling for help," said Thomas Avery who lives near the scene of the shooting. He saw a teenager who lives nearby running after Christian who was covered in blood. An adult neighbor ran after them with a towel trying to help. Avery says while he quickly put on his shoes to go outside, in less than a minute, he heard three gunshots.
Avery ran outside and saw Christian on the ground with two Purcellville police officers standing over him. Avery said one officer kneeled down and put pressure on a gunshot wound to stop the bleeding.
Another witness, who only saw the aftermath of the shooting, said an officer performed CPR on Sierra until rescue crews arrived.
Avery said he never heard anyone yell to Sierra to put the knife down. He did not see the moments right before the shooting and could not say if Sierra lunged toward the officers or not.
"It's ridiculous. This should not have happened. They should have shot him in the leg or tasered him," said Avery.
"My heart is broken," said Purcellville Police Chief Darryl Smith. He said he could not comment directly on the shooting because it's under investigation by Virginia State Police.
Chief Smith said he was sorry for the family and the police officer and know both are traumatized by the fatal shooting. He would not say whether the officer who shot Sierra has a taser and /or pepper spray on him. He did say that the not all officers are equipped with tasers, and most officers do have pepper spray.
The chief said that all officers are trained for crisis situations. The chief says if the investigation shows the officer made a mistake, than appropriate action would be taken.
Sierra's uncle Al Posada said that his nephew's actions were only a "cry for help."
The officer who pulled the trigger is on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.
The teenager's remains have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination and autopsy.