JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Body camera footage released Tuesday shows the sequence of events leading up to what the State Attorney’s Office ruled a justifiable police shooting.
Leah Baker, 29, was shot and killed by police after attacking an officer who was answering an April 11 call about a dispute at a home in Northwest Jacksonville.
The newly obtained video shows how quickly the encounter escalated.
Officer E. Mechling knocks on the door of the home on Golfair Boulevard. Armed with a knife, Baker answers the door, immediately stabbing Mechling in the arm.
“I’ve just been f****** stabbed!” Mechling is heard yelling on her radio as she backtracks off the front porch of the home.
Mechling then aims her firearm with both hands at Baker, demanding she drop the weapon. The knife falls to the ground in between Baker and Mechling.
(Video below from Officer Mechling’s body camera. Shows events leading to shooting. Viewer discretion advised.)
While Mechling demands the woman get on the ground, Baker is seen reaching down to pick up the knife. When Baker retrieves the knife, Mechling is seen stepping backward and firing two shots toward Baker, which investigators say missed. Baker drops the knife a second time.
“Shots fired!” Mechling yells into her radio.
At this point, Sgt. J.C. Nobles arrives on scene. He yells for Baker to put the knife down. Mechling begins walking closer to Baker, telling her again to get on the ground.
Baker then reaches down to grab the knife and lunges toward Nobles, who fires four shots. Baker is hit and falls to the ground, but does not let go of the knife. While holding the knife, a third officer approaches Baker, telling her repeatedly to stay down.
Additional officers arrive at the scene, one of whom treats Mechling’s wound.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m shaking,” Mechling tells the officer.
While Baker is still on the ground, a police K-9 grabs hold of her leg and she begins punching the dog. An officer can be heard yelling “stop hitting my dog,” and then another officer rushes in and gets the knife away from Baker.
The K-9 drags Baker a short distance into the street, officers handcuff her and paramedics arrive to treat her. She died at the hospital.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson took a look at the footage and how Officer Mechling handled the situation.
“She exercises officer safety as we see in the video, when she knocks on the door she steps back,” Jefferson pointed out. “She could have easily stabbed her in the upper torso or even in the face or neck area.”
Jefferson watched as Mechling fires and misses.
“She could have made the shot had she been calm. Being threatened with a knife, and she was already stabbed,” Jefferson noted.
Jefferson then watched as Baker ran toward Nobles with the knife.
“That happened so fast that had he not stopped the threat, he could have been stabbed as well. So, he did the right thing,” Jefferson said.
After the video was released, News4Jax spoke with Charity Baker, Leah Baker’s mother. She said, “I can’t condone my daughter’s actions, but at he same time I have fought with different hospitals to get the help she needed.”
Charity Baker also spoke with News4Jax back on July 19 during a rally.
“I had her in what I thought was a safe house,” Charity Baker said in July. “She did suffer from mental illness. I never thought the police would kill my daughter.”
The State Attorney’s Office ruled the actions of both Mechling and Nobles as justified. It was one of 14 shootings involving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that were recently cleared by the SAO.
The shooting is the first for Mechling in the line of duty. It’s the fourth recorded shooting in the line of duty for Nobles.