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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A fight with a boyfriend ended with Wilmington Police shooting and killing a suicidal woman in late January.

Today District Attorney Ben David and Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said the officer who fired the shots was justified.

Less than one month shy of her 22nd birthday, Grace Lousie Denk, a former Marine, was shot four times by a Wilmington Police officer killing her.

“I had her birthday present on my dresser,” Denk’s sister Annie Babbit said in an exclusive interview with WWAY.

It was a birthday present Denk would never see.

Police say Denk and her boyfriend were arguing Jan. 28 when she drove away from his home upset and drunk.

After receiving several texts from Denk saying she wanted to kill herself and that she had a gun, the boyfriend called 911.

“It’s my ex-girlfriend,” he told an operator. “She ran out of the house. I think she’s going to kill herself.”

Police were only on scene for two minutes before shots were fired.

Babbitt says her little sister dealt with depression after returning from Afghanistan, but she did not think Denk would have actually killed herself.

“I think if they had taken more than a few minutes with her, and even if they had tried to talk with her, you know, instead of coming up to her, pointing a gun at her, and kicking her door, I think any gesture would have helped. anything except for what they did,” Babbitt said.

The family’s attorney, Katy Parker, says if the officers involved had crisis intervention training, the outcome may have been different.

“The right person could have saved her life, and it’s so sad that that wasn’t even attempted. It wasn’t even tried,” Parker said.

Parker says there is a serious question as to whether Denk actually pointed her gun at officers, but Evangelous and David say it did happen and was enough to justify the shooting.

Parker says she and Denk’s family are discussing the next steps in finding justice for Denk, including possibly a civil lawsuit against WPD.

Chief Evangelous says the department is ramping up its crisis intervention training.

Comment on this Story

  • Ian

    With what you said, the cops need to stop slapping “To serve and protect” on their cruisers.

  • Guest2020

    I am sorry this woman is dead. I am sorry that she had problems. But her problems do not preclude the officer from defending himself when she pointed the gun at him. At that point, there was no time left for discussion. At that point he had every right to do what was necessary to save his own life.

  • Okie

    The family says this woman had problems with depression and suicide. They should have seen to it that no weapons were available for her. Why did she have a gun within reach, given her mental problems? People need to take responsibility for themselves and their family members. You have a problem with a family member, deal with it. People want to argue and fight, then they want the police to be babysitters. No matter what the police do, they are blamed if something goes bad.

  • pharaoh

    What happened was tragic no doubt and had the officers been trained in some sort of Crisis Intervention the outcome may have been different. Or not.

    The bigger picture and one which is even more tragic is the fact that, here is a former vet and obviously dealing with depression/PTSD issues caused by her service in a war zone. The problems they face are real and the help they get isn’t as good as it needs to be.

    The crisis intervention should have came a long time before things came to the point it did. Sadly, she is among the many who have PTSD issues and are simply not getting the level of professional help and counseling they need and deserve. All to often the VA doctors will simply prescribe a vet with an unending supply of ‘meds’ and send them on their way.

  • Editor

    Here is to the police offing themselves as much as soldiers. I’ll drink to that. Soldiers are not welcome in Wilmington bars/nightclubs so nevermind.

  • guestwhat

    another justified shooting in Wilmington. Shocker!

  • missing nc

    Sad…but justified.

  • ma

    its murder . those cops killed her in cold blood. they went up to her car kicking and acting insane like they are full of the devil and in a rage. dont call the cops unless you want someone to die . if they would of not been there she most likey would of got over it being drunk but the murder patrol wants to kill everyone. good thing she didnt have a dog with her they would of killed it too .

  • Guest, Just another

    Its a shame, but so common. People want to put blame on anyone but the person to blame. I feel bad for the family of Ms Denk, but I feel equally bad for the officer involved. She initiated this, completely. She is to blame, no one else. The officer has to live with this forever. She is to blame. She pulled the trigger.

    Crisis intervention will prove to help, and will also be a cause for blame and failure. There will be officers shot trying to help, and officers will be blamed for not helping enough when issues escalate.


    Law Enforcement is what the name implies – they are hired to enforce the laws – NOT serve as a counselor. They have to make major decisions in just a moment’s notice. Unless you are willing to step up in their place, you need to understand that when someone flashes a gun in their faces, their self-preservation calls for them to protect themselves the same as yours does. If you don’t approve, perhaps it’s time you signed up to take their place. Think about it for a while – and let us know when you sign up. Otherwise, shut up and let them do the jobs they were HIRED to do.

  • SurfCityTom

    if these 2 spent less time in front of media cameras and reporters and devoted more time to crime fighting and solving, there might be fewer plea deals and a reduction in the crime rate.

  • Guest321

    “When Officer Lovell witnessed Ms. Denk suddenly raise the gun up from her lap toward him and his partner with her hand on the trigger, his use of deadly force was fully supported by the law,” David said.

  • dollie

    I hope everyone remembers what happened in Boiling Springs Lakes. An officer responding to a call from parents of a mentally ill teen shot and killed him. This is a similar scenario. So sorry for the family of this young woman. A tragedy could have possibly been avoided if a crisis counselor was on call to respond. Also, let us not forget, fewer mentally ill patients are hospitalized today and if they are, it is for a shorter period.

  • guest0001

    This totally different than what happen in BSL. This time a gun was pointed at an officer and the trigger pulled.

  • 45645


    We need to get some of these counselors immediately. That way when someone calls 911 because they can’t control a family member or suicidal subject, one of these unarmed counselors gets called in and they can get shot or stabbed until the “victim” runs out of bullets or energy, and can then be taken into custody without injury.

    I support this!

  • 9743

    Is anyone really surprised at this foregone conclusion?

  • jj

    No, because I believed from the beginning this was suicide by cop and the Officers were protecting themselves.

  • Guest of the Week

    They have extensive evidence that the “victim” was suicidal. Do you really find it so hard to believe that someone who is suicidal has reservations about forcing the matter by making a cop pull the trigger for her? “Suicide by Cop” is nothing new. Go ahead, Google it.

  • kim

    How is this similiar to BSL. She pointed a gun and it missed fired. Really read the entire article.

  • concernedannoyance

    Crisis intervention works fine in the civilized world and saves a lot of grief for everyone-the victim, the family and the officers. Sounds like you think Police in North Carolina are too stupid to talk? With proper training these incidents CAN be prevented.

  • SurfCityTom

    in that case let’s get a squad of them working around Chestnut and Dawson streets. Think of all the crisis interventions they could do.

    Of course, you might want to equip them with kevelar.

  • Guest321

    Officer Lovell talked until she pointed a gun at him and tried to pull the trigger….crisis intervention over at that point! Would you stand there and CONTINUE to reason with her while she pulled the trigger at point blank range? He has a family to go home to, as well. Lovell was doing his job and keeping his own safety and the safety of his partner in mind since Denk obviously cared nothing for her own life; she shouldn’t have been a coward and force someone to do it for her. As a result, he’s being chastised by ignorant people.
    “When Officer Lovell witnessed Ms. Denk suddenly raise the gun up from her lap toward him and his partner with her hand on the trigger, his use of deadly force was fully supported by the law,” Ben David said. PERIOD.

  • griffin

    I do have to admit that most of them do not seem to be the brightest bulbs on the strand. Why would a cop kick the door of a mentally unbalanced person frightening them even more? Very bad judgment. Looks almost like he was trying to escalate the situation rather than calm her down. Very sad.

  • pharaoh

    Perhaps you should take some time to get to know and REALLY talk to a returning vet who is dealing with depression and/or PTSD. If you think that they don’t face readjustment problems and other issues after returning from multiple deployments to Afghanistan you’re very sadly mistaken. As a career soldier and Viet Nam vet I find your use of the term coward highly offensive. They are far from that. It’s easy for people like you who have little knowledge of the toll being in a war zone takes on a persons mental state. Been there, done that. How ’bout you?

  • Guest123123

    I’m so sick and tired of the same old line, “He wants to get home safely to his family”. Everyone wants to get home safely to their family in all occupations including military members,EMS workers, fire fighters. Why do you think they have people trained in hostage negotiations and the like. It would be easy to send in the swat team all the time and just take the person out. That is what those folks are trained to do. A negotiator is also trained to deal with situations like this and should be a certified officer and not a civilian. I was not there and do not know all the circumstances as fact. An officer can deescalate a situation situation sometimes by just removing themselves from the situation. Your only objective as an officer is not to get home safely every night because then you are in the wrong line of work. That would be like a firefighter saying I’m not going into that building i want to see my wife and kids tonight.

  • Perfect

    Couldn’t have been better said. She chose her fate. Unfortunate that Officer Lovell had to do this. It what he was trained to do. End of story.

  • Trained

    I have been trained in Crisis intervention. Even in their training you are advised that officer safety is paramount and should not be compromised. They also realize that all mentally ill people are not going to be able to be talked down and deadly force will still be necessary for some situations. This situation appears to be one that the fore was certainly justified in my opinion. I for one am not going to allow anyone to point a weapon at me without consequence, mentally ill or not. I definitely do not want my partner to have to explain to my children that I was killed by a mentally unstable person because I chose to let them shoot at me because of their condition. Guess that some of the folks on here would say that at least I died being a nice guy and not doing the wrong thing. I guess my thought here is, that this training that everyone is so eager for everyone to get is not magic solution that is going to prevent everything from going bad. When the opportunity arises it is a tool that is valuable in certain situations. Someone with a gun pointed at you is not the time to talk. it is a time for action and that is what these officers had to do. Maybe if she would have gotten rid of the gun, complied, and the scene was made to be safe, then CIT could have been utilized and been successful. Who knows? I am sorry for the loss to the family. I too am sorry for the officers who have to deal with the “what ifs” that they play in their heads and the ones the Monday morning quarterbacks place in the media.

  • zenobia

    Whatever happened in this incident the officer who responded was not trained to deal with suicidal veteran, and, obviously, it did not go well. If the officers do not get additional training, it will not go well the next time, either. There are 22 veterans committing suicide every day in the US. They need help, not execution.

  • Smelvin

    This poor girl didn’t need to die….. She needed the officers to back the hell up and observe from a distance. She wasn’t a threat to anyone sitting in her car.

    Mayberry PD is the only good police department in American History.

    Cops sure are trigger happy when they get scared…..

  • where is justice

    The kid in Boiling Springs had the screwdriver pointed at 1 of the officers. They have ALL that happened RECORDED that’s why he was cleared. Nobody is talking about that…

  • Matt Fleming

    I read so many articles that focus on the mental traumas of victims & their families. Rarely do I read any public or media appreciation for the deputies & officers who have to live with killing someone. Even when it’s justified it is something that haunts them for the rest of their lives.

  • mathew strangman

    Amazing that the family fails to act and now its the officers fault…..she made the threat and the family ignored it. Horrible and unfortunate outcome but this should’ve been handled way before the police had to intervene.

  • droppy

    These were the police. Not social workers. Not psychotherapists. It is not their duty to hold your sister’s hand and “talk with her” at a time in which she is clearly putting herself and others in danger. If you truly believe that a little ‘hand-holding’ and TLC would have made the difference, then perhaps you should have provided some of that for her yourself before the situation ever got to this point.

  • 45654

    Crisis intervention training is 40 hours of quackery that a private organization is making bookoo $$$ on everytime one of these events happen and people say “Ohhhh….but if they were CIT trained it would have never happened”.

    For starters, when someone points a gun at you, you shoot, don’t talk.

    These officers did exactly what they should have done. And they clearly started out talking, then pleading, with the woman.

    Thinking that a magical 40 hour course would make officers nut-job-whisperers is ignorant. Psychiatrists spend 8 or more years in college/university and can’t control people’s minds.

    The chief said WPD responded to 1,400 calls for mental commitments, 630 suicide threats, and 13 completed suicides last year, and NONE of those in 2013 resulted in a person being killed by police, right? So in the last 15 months, there is less than a .04% chance, THAT’S LESS THAN HALF OF 1/10TH OF A CHANCE, that you will call 911 for a suicidal/psych situation in Wilmington and the police will end up shooting. AND IT WAS CLEARLY JUSTIFIED.

    CIT training is not necessary. It makes everyone feel better, and sounds fuzzy and warm, but it is $200,000+ that could be spent on more applicable training and equipment, like tasers for every officer. Or a nice park, since that is what city council likes to spend money on.

    I believe WPD’s officers are doing an amazingly fine job. Especially considering their crap pay and declining benefits.

    In fact, the citizens of the community should do everything they can to encourage their city council to take steps to get these types of officers to stay with the department, rather than jump ship for other, better paying agencies.

  • GuestUSMC

    This has nothing to do with your so called “suicide by cop”. The woman had problems, possibly stemming from military service in a combat zone. Who is to say? The cop on the news video is shown kicking on her vehicle, which certainly did not help the situation. It seems like lately, cops have the attitude of “I don’t care what your problem is. I don’t have time to mess with you. Do what I say when I say or you will pay dearly. Make one move and I will kill you. I have nothing to fear, because nothing will happen to me, I have the power behind me, so, go ahead and make my day”.


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