Stephanie Hicks: Did she commit suicide in the back of a police cruiser?
It's been four years since the bizarre shooting death of Stephanie Hicks and questions remain.
The 20-year-old Missouri woman and her boyfriend had been arguing that sunny July morning in 2012 when she resolved that she needed medical help for her bipolar disorder, according to local reports. Hicks left the residence where she had been in a confrontation with her boyfriend and began the 9-mile walk to a hospital in St. Louis.
Alarmed by the distance as well as the nearly 106-degree heat, her boyfriend, Eric Perry, called the police.
On a bridge, an Alton police officer spotted Hicks and did something unprecedented: They offered to give her a ride.
“She was adamant about going to St. Louis,” Alton Police Chief David Hayes told KTVI’s FOX2. “So [instead of] allowing her to walk nine-and-a-half miles, our officer asked permission to provide her courtesy transportation to Christian Hospital, which we don’t normally do.”
Hicks got into the backseat as part of a "courtesy ride," highly different from being "in custody," Hayes told KTVI.
Then somehow someway, a struggle ensued.
“For some reason that we’ll never know, only God will, she decided to disarm the officer by surprising him," Hayes told the news station. "It was an unexpected move by her. The officer didn’t perceive her as a threat. She’s a 5 foot, 100-pound girl , and nobody in their right mind would perceive a person like that to be a threat.”
Again, somehow someway Hicks was able to attain the officer’s holster. She then fatally shot herself, committing suicide without saying a word, according to the police account.
"His gun was in his holster and, as far as I know, secured," Hayes said, according to ABC News. "The snap on his holster could have been simultaneously unsnapped and removed. We don't know those answers at this point. It's very sad and I feel horrible for the family and I also feel bad for the officer who was trying to do a good deed."
The startling news rocked Hicks' family, and they went along with the story -- but it wasn't long before her mother, Robbin Hicks, began to question the official law enforcement account.
“I’m not gonna rest, and I want the Alton Police to know I’m not gonna rest," she said, according to Fox 2. "I’m gonna get an attorney that does wrongful death."
Hicks' death while in the squad car of a St. Louis county police officer raised suspicions about that area's law enforcement practices long before the death of Michael Brown, the teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in nearby Ferguson in August 2014.
Robbin Hicks says police killed her daughter. “Five foot one against a grown police officer," she told Fox 2. "I don’t know who it is because they won’t disclose that to us either. They’re disclosing a lot of secrets behind us. I’m gonna find out. I’m gonna dig and if it’s down to my last breath that’s what I’m gonna do.”
After an autopsy it was determined by the medical examiner's preliminary report that Hicks died due to "suicide," the St. Louis County police wrote in a news release, according to ABC News. "This is believed to have occurred after a struggle over the control of the Alton police officer's weapon while in the patrol vehicle wherein she was shot in the head and died as a result of her injury."
The victim's mother told news media that her daughter wasn't perfect. "She got into drugs and alcohol," Robbin Hicks told The Telegraph. "We did everything in our power, taking her to rehab in Carbondale, but she ran away after two weeks."
As for whether he daughter would take her own life, he mother isn't buying it. "I don't believe that," she told The Telegraph. I'm not letting this rest, especially with her being shot in the side of the head. I want justice for her. She could have made it. This mother is not going to let this one go."