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The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL) 

June 12, 2000


A neighbor of the Springfield man who was shot by a city police officer Saturday night agreed that Randall C. Durham was reaching for something from his waistband at the time.

What she and another man who witnessed the incident say they weren’t sure of was whether or not it was – as police suspected – a gun.

Durham, 48, of the 2000 block of North 21st Street, remained in serious condition at Memorial Medical Center Sunday night with a single bullet wound to the abdomen.

“I saw him reach for something,” said Jeff Zike, who witnessed the shooting from the same side of the street, three houses down. “I can’t say what it was, but I saw him reach for something.”

He said he was too far away to see what kind of object Durham reached for.

Durham was shot outside a residence in the 1700 block of Fairmont Drive by one of three officers who responded to a disturbance reported at that address shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. He was shot after refusing to obey commands to halt and get on the ground, police said.

A gun, apparently belonging to Durham, was recovered at the scene.

Police were dispatched to the residence after Durham’s 23-year-old daughter ran across the street to the home of Kay Downey – Durham’s sister – at 6:45 p.m. to telephone police, then ran back, according to a family member who witnessed the shooting.

Officers responded almost immediately, said Shawn Murphy, Downey’s daughter, who lives with her.  Murphy, who saw the shooting from her front lawn, said that once police arrived, the daughter and her mother, Durham’s estranged wife, ran from their house toward Murphy’s residence.

Next, Durham exited the house and was confronted by officers, police said. He allegedly refused an order to halt, began to pull an object from his waistband and was shot.

Murphy and Zike both said police recovered a small handgun from where Durham fell. They then “threw it away from” Durham, Murphy said, adding that all three officers had their weapons drawn, pointed at the ground.

“Randy was outside moving toward the end of his yard… I heard a lot of yelling. I don’t know what was said by the cops. It was commands like ‘Stop’ or something,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s front lawn, across the street from where the shooting occurred, also is three houses down. From where she was standing, she said she saw Durham reach to his right hip area with his right hand. Soon after, the male officer – who hasn’t been identified – fired a single shot, she said.

“We’re not going to question the cop’s judgement,” Murphy said. “The cop was a lot closer and had a better view.”

Still, she said, “The one thing on our mind is, we didn’t see (Durham) pull a gun on the cop. Was he shot when he had the gun in his hand? Did they give him enough time, especially if they told him to halt? Was he going for it or was he going to put it on the ground to obey the officers?”

Downey said later that, according to Durham’s wife, he “swallowed a handful of pills,” Effexor XR, an anti-depressant, immediately prior to the incident.

Downey and other family members said they believed that Durham, who is under police guard at Memorial, has been suicidal for some time. According to Downey, he “told many people he would kill himself, but he never threatened anyone else.”

Murphy said she didn’t know where Durham might have gotten the handgun and that it was a “complete surprise” to discover Saturday night that he had one. She said Durham had apparently been trying to get ammunition for the weapon as late as last week.

For their part, police released little new information on the shooting Sunday, except to confirm that the incident is under investigation and the officer who fired the shot was put on administrative leave pending the investigation’s outcome.

According to newspaper records, the last time Springfield police officers had been involved in such a shooting was in 1995. A police spokesman could not confirm that Sunday night. Charges of unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated assault are being sought against Durham.