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Knife-wielding man shot to death by police after stabbing sergeant in face

Updated: October 23, 2013 6:24PM

As Chicago Police surrounded the little brick bungalow, punching out windows because they could smell gas seeping out, neighbor Diane Mallett made a frantic call to the troubled man inside the South Side home.

“You need to put the knife down, you need to hold up your hands and surrender,” Mallett recalled saying on her neighbor’s answering machine.

Mallett’s efforts were in vain. Chicago police officers shot and killed Terrance Harris, 40, after police say he lunged at them with two knives, just minutes after they say he repeatedly stabbed a sergeant in the face.

The sergeant, a 19-year department veteran, was initially listed in serious condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn early Wednesday, although his condition was later upgraded to good, according to authorities. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Tuesday night wasn’t the first sign of trouble at the home at the corner of East 107th and South Forest. Harris, who lived in the bungalow with his mother, had argued with her about two weeks ago, Mallett said.

“I told him, ‘Don’t argue with your mother, respect your mother,’” Mallett said, recalling that the argument wasn’t anything particularly serious. “I said, ‘If she goes off on you, you just leave, come over here and sit and watch TV.’”

About two days later, the situation deteriorated. Police and an ambulance showed up at the bungalow, after Harris deliberately cut himself with a knife, Mallett said.

Mallett described Harris as a good son who did shopping for his mother and took care of her yard. He was unemployed, but in school, she said.

Mallett faced the grim task of having to tell Harris’ younger brother what had happened.

“I told him, ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your brother is dead,’” Mallett said. “I was crying.”

Chicago Police officials said the sergeant and two officers were dispatched to the home after a 911 call placed by the attacker’s mother ended abruptly.

The sergeant and officers got no answer when they rang the doorbell about 10 p.m., Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden said.

But when they heard a woman’s screams coming from the inside, they forced their way in, Camden said.

First to enter was the 46-year-old sergeant, who was stabbed in the face multiple times by the knife-wielding man, Camden said.

Officers pulled the wounded supervisor to safety. Meanwhile, the man barricaded himself inside, locking an iron screen door shut after they left, Camden said.

Briefly locked out, the officers feared the man intended to burn the house down after the smell of natural gas began to drift from the home, Camden said.

They broke out several windows to ventilate the home and then forced their way back inside for a second time, Camden said.

Harris was found hiding in a basement closet with two knives, police said.

The man refused to drop the knives and lunged at them, Camden said. The officers drew their weapons and fired in self-defense, killing the man, police said.

“They basically saved this woman’s life, in addition to neighbors if the guy was intending to blow up the house,” Camden said. “They’re out there putting their lives on the line every night.”

Police had no information about when the attacker’s mother was rescued; she was taken to Roseland Community Hospital to be treated for multiple cuts, although it was not immediately clear whether they were caused by the knife or by broken glass, Camden said.

The Independent Police Review Authority and Area South detectives are investigating.

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