Deanne Choate’s family wants to see police training reformed so another family never has to suffer what they have.
About 30 family and friends of Choate gathered at Gardner City Hall on Sunday, March 28 hoping to shine a light on the officer-involved shooting that killed Choate last March. The officers have since been cleared of wrongdoing.
“I hope for some justice for my mother and some accountability from the police department,” Michael Weddington, Choate’s son, said.
Weddington and many in the crowd wore orange, Choate’s favorite color.
Choate was shot and killed by Gardner Police officers on March 26, when officers responded to a report of a weapon being fired inside a home in the 400 block of North Birch Street. When police arrived, they cuffed Choate’s boyfriend, Andrew Musto, and put him in the back of a patrol car before officers entered the home. Musto did not attend the walk for Choate, but marchers walked from city hall, to his house where the shooting occurred. They stopped every 14 minutes, the amount of time between when the 911 call was made and the time Choate was pronounced dead on March 26.
The officers were wearing body cameras, and Ben Hughes, Choate’s son-in-law, said he watched the videos from three cameras in his attorney’s office shortly after the officers were cleared of wrong doing.
According to Hughes, talk of Choate being a suicidal, crazy woman with a gun to her head is untrue.
He alleges the videos show police entering Choate’s bedroom and finding her asleep.
“Once (officers) found her, they talked to her for four minutes,” Hughes said. “And then they started telling her to put down the gun. From three cameras, you don’t ever see the gun.”
The videos do not show the right date or time, he said.
“Everyone is saying she was taunting police in the doorway,” Hughes said. “I saw the video and police can just tell you whatever they want.”
Hughes, Hillsdale, said his 53-year-old mother-in-law did not have to die that night last spring.
“There have been many cases where a similar thing has happened and police have talked them down,” Hughes said.
That’s what he wishes would have occurred on March 26. Choate, he said, was approximately 110-pounds and the police who shot her were much larger. Choate would not have pulled a gun on them.
“This woman, Dee, she was in the room everytime we had a child,” Hughes said. “To tell me she was at fault, I don’t buy it.”
Michelle Hughes, Choate’s daughter, said as the law currently stands, police are given the benefit of the doubt in officer involved shooting. She would like to see laws changed so police have greater accountability and better training.
“(Police) can pretty much go around shooting whoever they want,” she said.
Ben Hughes said people should be demanding to see the videos.
“You’re not going to get a Hollywood finish, but I wanted to see for myself what’s justified,” he said.