Des Moines police shoot, injure homeless man at encampment

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines officer shot a homeless man who tried to evade police and then threatened one of them with a knife Friday afternoon, police said.

The shooting happened early Friday afternoon at a homeless encampment near the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway Bridge over the Raccoon River.

Officers were responding to complaints about the camp when a 26-year-old man there refused to cooperate with officers, then jumped into the river, police Sgt. Paul Parizek said. The man later emerged from the river, ran back to the camp and armed himself first with a shovel, then a machete-style knife, Parizek said.

Police say he advanced on an officer, refusing commands to drop the knife, and was shot in the upper torso.

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When asked whether officers had considered using less lethal force, like a stun gun, Parizek said that was “not appropriate in this situation.”

The camp where the shooting occurred has been a source of ongoing complaints from the public, police said. It lies in a wooded area between the river and a neighborhood of winding streets and historic homes, just down a hill from the governor’s mansion.

Police did not release the man’s name, but say he underwent surgery and was stable late Friday afternoon. Parizek said the names of the officers will be released next week.

The nonprofit organization Institute for Community Alliances reported that a 2019 count found 681 homeless people in Des Moines, of whom 92 did not have shelter. The others were being housed in emergency shelters or other transitional housing.

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