Witness to Northland police shooting describes chaotic scene as woman with sword refuses to surrender
Grant Braaten was on "daddy duty" Thursday, having just placed lunch on the table for his three kids, when an officer rapped on his Kansas City North door to alert him: A young woman had broken into the house next door, triggering an alarm, and was refusing to surrender.
The scene that unfolded over the next three hours — including the woman running half naked in a bridesmaid dress wielding a decorative Japanese katana sword — was not only surreal but also tragic.
It ended with Kansas City police officers firing at least six bullets, killing 28-year-old Ashley Simonetti, and leaving those who knew her seething, insisting that although Simonetti acted peculiar, she was never a danger to others.
Police on Friday identified Simonetti as Ashley Dean Fulkerson, which is her mother's last name, and confirmed they had "recovered a sword from the deceased" but did not provide any more details on what prompted officers to fire.
"The KCPD MURDERED my only daughter," Janna Fulkerson posted on Facebook Friday. "They had Guns she had a sword but I know they were never in fear of there (sic) life and they should have to pay for just killing whoever they feel like killing at the time. My daughter probably weighed about 90 pounds, they could of shot her in the leg or anything but this! I am totally devastated. ... I will never get to hug her or tell her I love her or anything ever again!"
Braaten saw it from start to finish.
Police descended en masse. Simonetti, inside a neighbor's unoccupied house, climbed out of a window to elude them. The sword reportedly was stolen from the home. So was the bridesmaid's dress.
She ran through Braaten's yard. Her dress came loose. Police fired bean bags at her in a scene that Braaten called "crazy."
"Seeing her run through the backyard with a sword in her hand. She’s topless. This lady is obviously out of her gourd," he said.
She tried to enter other homes, Braaten said, but failed. In 90-degree midday heat, she holed up in the detached garage behind a burned-out home in the 3800 block of North Jackson Avenue.
For hours, police tried to reason with her and used a robot, tear gas — none of which worked.
"They brought in a negotiator and tried to talk to her," Braaten said. "They kept saying, 'Hey, come out. That garage has to be hot. Come on out and just drop the weapon. Just come out. We want to talk with you.'"
Finally, police tried to enter the garage with a battering ram. Simonetti sneaked under the bashed garage door and took off running.
"They opened fire on her and dropped her there," Braaten said.
Simonetti's death was the first of three officer-involved shooting deaths in Kansas City on Thursday.
Simonetti was shot and killed at about 4 p.m. Shortly before 5 p.m., police shot two men on Barney Allis Plaza at 12th and Wyandotte streets. Police said the men were reportedly fighting over a golf cart and a gun.
Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith spoke with the media at the downtown scene on Thursday. He said the officers "did what they thought was necessary."
He said it was unusual to have two deadly force incidents in such a short time span. Kansas City police typically count between two and five fatal officer-involved shootings over the course of a year.
"I just wanted people in this city to know our officers are dedicated to go out here and protect the citizens of this city. Both incidents unfolded protecting other citizens," Smith said.
In Simonetti's case, Braaten is convinced that police acted correctly.
"They negotiated with her for a long time," he said. "I may see it differently if it was 15 minutes, but they tried for a long time. It comes at a time when she is running around wielding a sword. ... They tried, they really did try. She couldn't be reasoned with."
Robert Person is grateful no one was home when Simonetti apparently entered his house through an unlocked back door. Person and his wife were at work when they received a call from their alarm company around 1:30 p.m., alerting them that someone was inside.
Simonetti grabbed a decorative sword that had been stored in a closet. Person thinks his wife picked up the sword at a garage sale. Simonetti also changed into a bridesmaid's dress that belonged to his wife.
“It is kind of surreal to think that something like that (would happen),” Person said. “It could have been a lot worse than what it was with multiple people injured.”
But other neighbors who knew Simonetti insisted that although she often exhibited an odd and quirky personality, she never would have hurt anyone.
"It's pretty horrible," said Joshua Neff, 36, who knew Simonetti for about three years. He said she dated his cousin, Taylor Wade. "I don't understand the use of lethal force. I'm not sure why that was necessary."
She was well known in the neighborhood, he said. Her mother lives nearby.
"I know she wasn't a threat to anybody," Neff said. "She was just a colorful person."
Neighbors Gerald Ferguson, 89, and his wife, Edna, said the same.
"She was always friendly. She was never a nuisance," Edna Ferguson said.
Gerald Ferguson said he would often see Simonetti across the street, on Neff's yard, practicing her moves, which Neff said was like a free-form mixture of ballet, yoga and martial arts.
"She was over there for hours in the yard," Ferguson said. "I'd ask her, 'Where do you get all that energy?'"
Neighbor Kaleb Galloway, 33, didn't know Simonetti personally.
"I have seen her play with her toys that you may see hippie girls play with," he said, "like dancing in her front yard. She’s a little odd, didn’t seem to be a threat."
Galloway said that when he came home Thursday, police had already blocked off the street.
"I asked an officer what was going on and he said a crazy lady was in the burned-out house with a sword," he said. "I stood on my porch for three hours and watched every cop in Kansas City show up and then armored vehicles and just lots of force show up for a young lady that was just hiding.
"She obviously was scared and something was wrong with her. That’s what I saw, and then I heard the shots."
Wade, the former boyfriend, posted a heartfelt message on Simonetti's Facebook page.
"I miss you and love you baby. ... You're forever in my heart. ... Rest in peace beautiful. Remember I always told you you're one of a kind unique you're perfect the way you are."
Neff, for one, hopes his friend's death simply isn't forgotten.
"The truth is that I don't think she attacked anybody," he said. "It just breaks my heart to think what she went through alone thinking she had no one there. All they (police) had to do was to do their job, and that wasn't their job."