Witness: Stabbing suspect shot by police says 'thank you'

Witness: Knife-wielding man police shot thanks them

Terry Heath, 45, was pronounced dead in the United Dairy Farmers at 1820 Wyoming St. just after 11 p.m. Officer Michael Saylors and Sgt. Eric Sheldon, both of whom confronted Heath in the store to question him about a stabbing, shot him. Both officers are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation of the shooting, police Chief Richard Biehl said at a news conference Tuesday.

Heath was wanted for reportedly stabbing his neighbor, 44-year-old Johnny Hagan, at an apartment at 2305 Wyoming St., about an hour before the UDF incident. Lynn Shaver, Hagan's sister, said her brother had ongoing arguments with Heath, who'd threatened to shoot Hagan several times.

About 13 minutes after the stabbing, Heath called 911 and told a dispatcher, "I just stabbed my neighbor," and asked if he could turn himself in. However, he hung up before the dispatcher could determine his location. But officers received a tip he was at the UDF.

The store's surveillance video shows Heath purchasing alcohol at about 11 p.m., and the officers entering about the same time. Heath backed into a corner and out of the camera's view when he saw the officers. Seconds later, customers can be seen ducking for cover as the officers open fire.

According to a statement given to police, a witness said he "didn't see much, but the man yelled 'you're gonna have to pull your gun,' to the officer who then told him to put the knife down." Biehl said after being shot, Heath reportedly made the "somewhat chilling" statement of "thank you," to Sheldon just before he died. Saylors, a 14-year veteran with the Dayton Police Department, fired his weapon three times, while Sheldon, who has been with the department 13 years, fired four times, Biehl said.

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office said Heath died of multiple gunshot wounds to the liver and lungs. It will take six to eight weeks for toxicology results to be completed. Officers located a knife, believed to be the one used to stab Hagan, as well as a crack pipe, on Heath, Biehl said.

Tuesday night, Hagan was in critical but stable condition at Miami Valley Hospital. Biehl said Hagan was stabbed twice in the torso. Shaver said her brother underwent extensive surgery on his heart and was placed in an induced coma and must use a ventilator to breathe. Doctors told his family the next 72 hours will be critical. Knowing the continued problems her brother had with Heath, Shaver said she's angry about what happened but feels officers helped "get justice."

"I think he got what he deserved," Shaver said. "He either had to be messed up on something or he had to be crazy. Why would you go after two officers and try to go after my brother at the same time?"

Eyewitness James Jackson said he was in the store when shots rang out. He said he heard Heath making jokes with other customers before officers approached him.

"(The cashier) was handing me my change and he said, 'gun,' and I got the hell up out of there," Jackson said.

It's unknown how long the officers could be on paid leave while the investigation continues, but Biehl said it typically takes several days. The department's homicide-felonious assault unit is investigating the officer-involved shooting, and will present the outcome of the investigation to the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office. The Professional Standards Bureau is performing an administrative investigation of the shooting and their findings will be submitted to Biehl.

Heath had an extensive criminal history with Dayton police, as was arrested 31 times. His most recent arrest was May 20 on felony charges of illegal conveyance of drugs into the Montgomery County Jail, possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence. Saylors was the arresting officer, according to a Dayton police report.

Although Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office records indicate charges were approved against Heath, he was released from the county jail May 21. The case hadn't yet been scheduled to be presented to a grand jury. Biehl said he wasn't sure why Heath was released from jail.

He also had a history of resisting arrest and was admitted to a hospital for emergency psychiatric evaluation six times since 2008, according to police. Heath had four convictions for drug possession (cocaine) between 2001-2005, and a felony conviction in 1999 for failure to comply, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court records.

Related Stories