Logan, Iowa - A Missouri Valley police officer remained on paid leave Monday as the Harrison County attorney reviewed the fatal shooting of a woman in her front yard late Saturday.
Officer Aaron Brensel fired two shots at 40-year-old Diana Reese after she threatened the officer with a knife, the Harrison County Sheriff's Office said.
Missouri Valley Police Chief Jason Smith said Monday that he expects the County Attorney's Office to clear Brensel in the shooting, allowing the officer to return to duty. An internal investigation found that Brensel acted properly and followed department policies, Smith said.
Brensel, 23, joined the department in November 1999. He worked as a trainee for about nine months before attending the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and graduating in November 2000, Smith said.
Brensel went to Reese's home Saturday after a neighbor called to report suspicious activity, Harrison County Sheriff Terry Baxter said. A witness said Reese and a man were having sex in her front yard.
When Brensel arrived at the house, Reese went inside and came back out with a knife, Baxter said. She then began arguing with a male friend and stabbed him in the forearm, Baxter said. Reese then threatened Brensel with the knife.
A witness said the officer told Reese to drop the knife six to eight times before shooting her. He fired two shots, both of which hit Reese in the chest.
The man who was with Reese, Charles Mahoney, said Monday that he heard four shots, not two.
Mahoney, 39, of Missouri Valley, said he and Reese were drinking strawberry wine heavily during the evening. Reese undressed, ran around her yard naked, tried to have sex with him and called him another man's name, Mahoney said. The two were not dating, he said, but had been friends since childhood. Both grew up in Missouri Valley, a town of almost 3,000 about 20 miles northeast of Omaha off Interstate 29.
"I didn't want to have sex with her, and that's what made her go crazy," Mahoney said Monday.
When the officer arrived at the house, Reese was wearing a long, white T-shirt and Mahoney was dressed but barefoot. She attacked Mahoney with what he thought was a screwdriver, stabbing him three times in the arm.
Reese already had the weapon when the officer arrived, Mahoney said. He said he tried to calm her down and then said, " 'Are you happy, we're going to jail,' and then boom, boom, boom, boom - four shots. She fell down and asked me to help her and then she said, 'Run.'"
Mahoney said he was holding one of Reese's arms when the bullets hit her. He said he could not remember whether the officer warned Reese to drop the weapon.
"It all happened so fast," he said.
Fearing he might be shot next, Mahoney said he ran barefoot down a gravel road and across a creek before his brother found him and took him to talk to police. He refused medical treatment and was not arrested.
Monday afternoon, Mahoney wore a white bandage around his right forearm. A pair of shoes lay in front of the wooden stoop where the two had been drinking. Reese's house sits on the northwest edge of town. A chain-link fence and shrubs line a small front yard.
Mahoney said Reese had been taking Prozac to treat depression.
"Her personality just turned so sudden that night," he said.
Baxter said authorities are awaiting autopsy results to confirm whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident. They are also studying a tape of the incident from a camera in Brensel's cruiser. The tape captured audio from the shooting but was not pointed at Brensel and Reese, said Smith, the police chief.
Baxter said police frequently had to deal with Reese. This spring, Reese pleaded guilty to making a bomb threat against the neighbor who called with the complaint Saturday night.
Witnesses and Mahoney said Reese was a mother of three whose children - ages 8 to 11 - did not live with her. She had not been working, according to witnesses and court records.
According to a handwritten note by Reese submitted in the bomb-threat case, she thought her neighbors wanted the state to take away her children.
"I didn't have anything to do with that stupid bomb threat thing," she wrote in late April. "I wouldn't be that stupid or drunk like that, etc. dumb! to risk losing my kids."
Baxter said the children have been in state custody since before the shooting.
Smith said it was not unusual for one officer to respond to a report of suspicious activity. The department has seven full-time officers, including the chief and a sergeant, and three reserve officers. Brensel was the only full-time officer working Saturday evening, Smith said.
"I'd prefer to be able to send two officers on every call," he said. "But with our staffing, when we get a call about two people having sex in the front yard, we send one."
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