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July 22, 2014

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Texas mayor says officer who shot 93-year-old should be fired

HEARNE, Texas — Dozens of residents angry that a police officer fatally shot a 93-year-old woman marched Thursday to police headquarters in the small Texas town of Hearne, where the longtime mayor greeted them and said he would recommend the officer be fired.

That didn't satisfy friends of Pearlie Golden, who authorities say appeared to be shot three times Tuesday night by Officer Stephen Stem after he responded to a 911 call about a disturbance involving a woman and a gun.

"There's no justification. Any police officer would know not to kill a 93-year-old fragile woman when they could have backed off," said William Foster, 64, a retired professor in Hearne. "She was no threat to him."

In a statement Hearne Police said Golden "brandished a gun" when Stem arrived at her small brick home behind the railroad tracks that run through this mostly poor community of 4,500 people.

Robertson County District Attorney Coty Siegert said Thursday a preliminary autopsy showed Golden was shot twice in the body and grazed by a third bullet. It's the second time Stem has shot and killed a suspect since joining Hearne Police in 2012, Siegert said.

Hearne Mayor Ruben Gomez said he would recommend Stem be fired at a city council meeting Saturday.

"It's a loss of confidence in the community. We can't have an officer the citizens have lost confidence in," Gomez said.

Stem could not be reached for comment because a number for him could not be found. Siegert said he saw Stem's lawyer this week but didn't know his name, and Hearne City Attorney Bryan Ross didn't immediately return a phone message. A message was also left with Texas' largest police union.

Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting and police have declined to comment beyond the statement issued this week.

Candles left in vigil remained outside Golden's squat home two days after the shooting. Foster and others said Golden lived alone and that her husband had been a Hearne Police officer himself.

A doghouse made of plywood sat in Golden's recently cut yard. Next door, a neighbor lived in a trailer surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

Hazel Embra, a geriatric nurse and a City Council candidate in Saturday's local election, said she saw Golden last week at the grocery store. Embra described a spry, sharp woman who was known by many people as "Miss Sulie" and enthusiastically greeted friends with "Hey, baby! How you doing?"

Authorities say a revolver believed to be the weapon Golden had at the time of the shooting was found at the scene.

"That lady should be living today. She should not have died like she did," Embra said.

The circumstances surrounding Stem's first fatal shooting on the job in Hearne were far different. Stiegert said several officers had responded to a call of shots fired and wound up chasing three men who fled on foot. The one who died wasn't armed when shot by Stem, Stiegert said, but had been during the pursuit. He said officers can be distinctly heard on tape yelling to put the gun down before shots were fired.

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