Mother of ax-wielding man killed by police said son dealt with ‘mental issues’

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A 23-year-old Chester man was shot dead in downtown Richmond Tuesday morning after police say he attacked an officer with a knife.

Richmond Police Cheif Alfred Durham said his department began fielding calls around 9:30 a.m. about a shirtless, kilt-wearing suspect near Tredegar in downtown Richmond. Officers responded but couldn’t find him.

Police say they got another call about 10 minutes later about the same suspect threatening construction workers on 5th Street. Police say they then received another call around 9:52 a.m. at 9th and Cary Streets and then another at 12th and Canal about an armed man.

At 10:05 a.m., officers located the suspect at 3rd and Main streets.

“He was still armed with the weapons,” Durham explained.

Durham said de-escalation techniques were used to get the suspect to drop his weapons. Officers also tried to tase the suspect, but after that did not work, officers shot the suspect.

“We have several eyewitnesses to this event,” Durham said. “It will take time to get to the bottom of this and find out what actually happened as it relates to our use of force by members of the Richmond Police Department.”

The suspect, who has been identified as 23-year-old Alexander J. Schoessel of Chester, was transported to VCU Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 10:31 a.m.

One officer, 43-year-old John Rotondi, was caught in the line of fire as a bullet struck his protective vest.

The two officers who discharged their weapons and shot the suspect have been identified as 28-year-old Nicholas Pechstein and 24-year-old Joshua Sanborn. Both have been with the department for eight months.

“I am sorry about the loss of life that occurred today. I wish there had been a different outcome.” — RPD Chief Durham

The shooting takes place after the Richmond Police Department has implemented simulator training over the past two years aimed at reducing officer related shootings.

“Our officers probably in a year and a half now have been receiving this de-escalate training,” Durham said. “How do you back off and use more of your god given skills to verbal communication, verbal judo, if you will, to de-escalate folks? And in some instances, as you see here in this encounter, unfortunately, de-escalation technique did not work.”

The Richmond Police Department’s Force Investigation Team (FIT), comprised of homicide detectives, have begun their investigation. The detectives have secured the weapons of the officers involved in the incident, they have interviewed the officers and several eyewitnesses, and they will review body-worn camera videos taken by officers at the scene. That videos will not be released at this time as they are part of the on-going investigation.

Once completed, the final FIT report will be presented to Chief Durham and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Schoessel’s mother, Richelle Tucker, told the Associated Press that while her son had dealt previously with “mental issues,” she does not believe he was not the kind of person who would harm anyone.

Tucker also said that Schoessel was known by his friends as a “sweet, gentle young man.”

Without elaborating further about his mental health history, Tucker said her family is struggling to deal with her son’s death.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.Never miss another Facebook post from 8NewsFind 8News on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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