KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The family of the 22-year-old man, shot and killed by police Saturday as he aggressively swung a baseball bat, is now questioning the use of deadly force by the officers.
Nick Simonitch was bashing out car windows with a baseball bat when he was confronted by police. After one officer asked Simonitch to put down the bat, he acted as if he was doing so. As the officer took a step toward him he unexpectedly swung the bat again, just barely missing the officer. Police shot Simonitch dead within seconds of the attack.
Simonitch’s adoptive family has not disputed the reports of his actions on Saturday morning. They do insist, however, that it was not drugs or alcohol fueling his behavior, but rather attribute it to possible mental illness. His biological family has a history of Bipolar Disorder.
"He just snapped, we don't know why, we were robbed of the opportunity to have him evaluated,” said Andy Loya, Simonitch’s uncle.
Ed Loya, Andy Loya’s brother, raised Simonitch as his own when his former girlfriend, the mother of the child, abandoned the boy as a baby.
"Ed mentioned that he had seen some erratic behavior in the days before this event," said Andy Loya.
Simonitch had told his father he thought he was being followed, and didn't sleep the night before he was shot.
“Honestly Ed does not feel it should have come to deadly force," said Andy Loya, who agrees with his brother that alternative action, such as calling a backup officer or firing a Taser, could have been implemented in place of the gun shot.
John Hamliton, a retired policeman now teaching criminal justice at Park University, said Tasers don't always work and their 21 foot range allows suspects to lunge at a cop, if the Taser doesn't properly deploy.
"Anyway you go it's a split second decision that the officer has to make," said Hamilton. "A bat to the side of the head will kill you in a minute."
Hamilton feels for the family but says police aim for body mass, not limbs and add it's hard to second guess officers when someone doesn't cooperate.
Until the investigation is complete, officers will not tell Simonitch's family exactly what happened. His uncle said at the very least the family now knows that Simonitch needed help from a mental health expert.