Vidalia woman shoots herself in police standoff

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 15, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – A Vidalia woman shot herself once in the stomach with a .380-caliber pistol after a Friday afternoon police standoff that lasted almost two hours.

Dorothy Lewis, 37, of 402 Sycamore St. – directly across from the Vidalia Police Department – was taken to Natchez Regional Medical Center, where she was undergoing surgery as of Friday evening. She was in stable condition before she went into surgery, said hospital CEO Jack Houghton.

Two of Lewis’ sisters, as well as her niece and nephew, were visiting Lewis at her house just before 1 p.m. when &uot;she ran them out,&uot;&160;said Police Chief Billy Hammers, adding that Lewis had been brandishing a pistol.

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The relatives ran to the police department to get help. &uot;We tried to negotiate with her for quite a while – I&160;could yell to her from where I was,&uot; Hammers said.

But Lewis mostly shouted incoherently and had been drinking, he said. &uot;She talked about how no one loved her, how no one cared,&uot; Hammers said.

Hammers said he did not have enough information from family statements as of Friday afternoon to comment on Lewis’ mental history or what might have upset her prior to the incident.

Adjacent streets were quickly blocked off, and Vidalia police, Concordia sheriff’s deputies and other emergency personnel surrounded the area.

Lewis’ adult son drove his truck up to the house in order to talk with his mother but was persuaded by law enforcement officers to get away from the house, police said.

At about 2:30 p.m., Lewis was walking in and out of her house through the front door and could be heard yelling, although bystanders could not make out her words.

&uot;She was drinking from a bottle right in front of us,&uot;&160;Hammers said.

Residents stood along nearby streets watching as the standoff unfolded. Although he would not give his name, a neighbor said Lewis seemed like &uot;there was nothing wrong with her. I didn’t know of anything going on there. … I&160;didn’t think anything like this would happen.&uot;

Others said they did not know Lewis well enough to comment.

At about 3:25 p.m., members of the parish’s Special Response Team approached the house around both sides, making their way from the back of the house to the front.

They set off a &uot;percussion grenade&uot; to distract Lewis so they could take her safely into custody. But when officers came into the house, Lewis shot herself once in the stomach and fired another bullet into a wall.

No one else was injured in the incident.

Students at Vidalia Junior High, which lies on Gillespie Street near Sycamore Street, were held at the school from the time classes let out at 3:07 until about 3:30 p.m., when it was clear that the standoff was over.

&uot;We just wanted to make sure they were safe,&uot; said Principal Fred Marsalis. Traffic was detoured from John Dale Drive and Sycamore Street during the incident.