NORMAN — The female officer involved in Wednesday’s shooting at Main Street and Hal Muldrow Drive was identified by fellow officers as Glenda Vassar.
Vassar repeatedly issued verbal warnings to him, but she shot him after he began to approach her in an aggressive manner armed with a small kitchen knife, eyewitnesses said.
The man was identified as Richard Darwin Eaton, 44, of Norman. Just before the shooting, he allegedly demanded $40 and accosted an employee at a Wendy’s restaurant, eyewitnesses and police said.
Court records show that Eaton has previously faced charges including burglary, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and forgery.
As of Friday, Eaton was listed in stable condition at OU Medical Center. Although he is receiving medical treatment, he still is under police custody with formal charges pending.
Earlier this year, Vassar was recognized as the first female officer to receive the Police Officer of the Year award. She has worked as a Norman officer for two-and-a-half years and was commended during the awards ceremony by Chief of Police Keith Humphrey.
She has been “a positive role model for women of all ages,” Humphrey said at the ceremony.
Officer Vassar was placed on administrative leave for 72 hours after the incident, in accordance with the standard department policy. The incident is one of the few officer-involved shootings in Norman involving a female officer. The last one occurred around 25 years ago, Norman police Lt. Ricky Jackson said.
During Vassar’s administrative leave, she was required, as part of the policy, to talk to a peer support responder (PSR).
The Peer Support Team was developed to help officers “defuse” or “debrief” from incidents such as officer-involved shootings, Jackson said. The team allows officers involved in critical incidents to sit down and talk to someone who has been in their shoes.
“Suicide is the No. 1 cause of death of police officers,” Jackson said. “In the past, they were just telling a guy to suck it up and move on.”
That was before many realized that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and other conditions were affecting officers after being involved in critical incidents, he said.
A PSR is not a licensed therapist, doctor or psychologist, but they receive training to recognize signs of stress, depression and suicide. Being a PSR is voluntary and is generally another peer such as another officer, dispatcher or a civilian, Jackson said.
If the PSR recognizes any of the signs and thinks the officer may be having difficulty coping with the incident, they will then refer the officer to a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. The psychologist will then assess the officer and determine when the officer can return to work.