Police kill teacher who allegedly charged at them with a knife during suicide attempt

Kyle Hart of Redwood City taught at Greene Middle School (formerly Jordan Middle School) in Palo Alto. Facebook photo.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

A teacher at Greene Middle School in Palo Alto was killed today (Dec. 10) by a Redwood City Police Officer after he allegedly charged at officers with a butcher knife while attempting to commit suicide.

Redwood City officers were called to 33-year-old Kyle Hart’s home at 450 Lincoln Ave. in Redwood City at 8:47 a.m.

Hart’s wife frantically requested help from officers, telling them that Hart was trying to kill himself with a knife, police said.

Officers arrived to find the woman in the front yard of the home covered in blood and directed them to the backyard. While officers were heading that way, they encountered Hart, who had a butcher knife, according to Redwood City Lt. John Gunderson.

Both officers, trained to intervene in crises, attempted to get Hart to drop the knife, but Hart refused and began running at the officers, police said.

One of the officers attempted to use a Taser on Hart, but was unsuccessful. Another officer on scene, a 20-year veteran, “had no choice but to utilize a firearm to stop the male from advancing,” according to Gunderson.

Hart had been a teacher with the Palo Alto School District for eight years, first teaching at JLS Middle School and three years ago moved to teaching at Greene (formerly Jordan Middle School). He taught 7th and 8th grade English and Social Studies at Greene, according to Superintendent Don Austin.

Hart received high marks on the popular website “ratemyteachers.com” with many students writing that they would recommend him as a teacher, especially since he did not give a lot of homework.

Principal Valerie Royaltey-Quandt, sent an email to families last night (see below), alerting parents about Hart’s death, and a statement will be read to students in class this morning.

Counselors will be made available for students to process their feelings about Hart’s death.

Yesterday’s incident occurred in front of Hart’s wife and his two young children, at the home the young family just purchased earlier this year, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, whose office is investigating the case.

“Cases like this just sadden me, his poor wife,” Wagstaffe said. “But unfortunately your mindset when you’re suicidal is that you’re not thinking about others.”
Wagstaffe said his office never prosecuted Hart.

This is the fourth officer-involved death in a year in San Mateo County, according to Wagstaffe. The three previous deaths, in Millbrae, Redwood City and Daly City, occurred after the men had been stunned multiple times with a Taser.

Hart is the fourth person to have died at the hands of Redwood City officers since March 12, 2017. On March 12, 2017, Robert Lee Eichen was shot by an officer at the same time as Eichen attempted to commit suicide. On Dec. 30, 2017, Marco Carlos was shot multiple times outside of the Well Fargo bank after threatening officers with a gun. On Aug. 13, Ramzi Saad died after being Tasered by Redwood City police officers following a domestic dispute with Saad’s mother.

Principal’s message

Greene Middle School Principal Valerie Royaltey-Quandt sent the message below to families today.

Dear Families:

We are sad to inform you that Kyle Hart, one of our teachers, passed away. For the past three years, Mr. Hart taught English and Social Studies at Greene Middle School and had previously worked at J. L. Stanford Middle School.

The following statement will be read to your student during first period in the morning:

I need to share with you the sad news about the passing of Greene Middle School teacher, Mr. Hart.

For the past three years, Mr. Hart taught 7th and 8th grade English and Social Studies here. His death is very sad news, for both teachers and students, especially those who had him as their teacher.

You may or may not have known Mr. Hart; however, we have counselors here today for anyone who might want to talk about their feelings or reaction to this news, or for feelings or concerns this may bring up for you. It’s also possible you may have no reaction at all. If you need help or support, please sign out of your classroom on the sign out sheet and come to the front office to see Jena or Cristina. They will let you know which counselors are available to see you.

Your teachers and counselors are here to help you. Sometimes feelings of grief or sadness come more slowly, and we will be keeping counselors available all week in order to support students and staff.

We understand that it may be especially difficult for our students to emotionally process the death of a member of our school community. The grieving process is a normal result of loss. Young people of all ages may exhibit various grief reactions and these reactions can vary from day to day. Here are some helpful resources from a local Palo Alto organization, Kara, which provides grief support for children, teens, families and adults.

10 Basic Principles of a Grieving Child

A Few Thoughts for Parents

Members of our counseling and mental health support staff are available to meet with students individually and in groups as well as over the coming days and weeks. Please contact the school office if you feel your child is in need of additional assistance; we have a list of school and community mental health resources.

On behalf of the Greene community and the entire Palo Alto Unified School District, we extend our deepest condolences to the Hart family and want our community to know that we are here for you as we navigate this loss.

 

There is help

Those looking for help can contact the Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis Hotline at (855) 278-4204. Additionally, anyone in need of help can text “RENEW” to 741741.

28 Comments

  1. How utterly disgusting of the police to do…. Really shows how sick the police department is with their twisted agenda. Rest in peace, Kyle. May you find the peace and love you were longing for.

    • What’s utterly disgusting is your agenda, make the police look bad for doing their job. They killed the man because he charged with a knife and couldn’t be stopped, you aren’t very smart are you?

      • @boi, spoken like a Redwood City cop. Guess you didn’t read the story. The question is whether this fatal tragedy could have been avoided with better training.

    • they tried to taser him but when your being charged at with a butcher knife a gun is their last resort yes they should have shot him in the leg but in moments like this it’s your instincts

    • The cops are victims too. Obviously the deceased was acting irrationally as his spouse was the one who requested help. And no veteran officer uses lethal force without cause but only as a last resort. If you were he, would you be willing to die at the hands of a mentally ill angry person coming at you with a bloodied knife? I doubt it. It’s easy to be critical. Another to be empathetic.That officer deserves the benefit of the doubt unless proven to be guilty of intentionally committing a criminal act. People who generalize about a cop doing his/her job lawfully disgust me!

      • This is so stupid. The man’s wife calls the police to help her suicidal husband and they shoot and kill the guy??? When has a cop ever been killed by a knife-wielding suicidal man – who was not a terrorist? The lesson of all this, don’t call the cops the next time a family member is acting suicidal.

        • So sorry for the family. As a constant fear for the loved ones with mental health issues, police involvement is fraught with possible tragic outcomes. Much empathy also, for law enforcement who can have PTSD not to mention teachers, whose jobs are stressful. Life has been made over-complex and increasingly intolerable sometimes. Getting “help” does not, unfortunately solve the problem for everyone. Society should seek solutions to making life simpler, easier and peaceful. Business and academia are complicit.

  2. Quit blaming the police. Just because they wish to serve the public, doesn’t mean they deserve to die. The man was coming at them with a butcher knife. People would prefer that the officer died instead? Liberals gone radical. The same ones who call the police when they need help.

    There is more to this story, the truth will come out—there is a reason he was suicidal—he ruined his future. My condolences to his wife and daughters.

  3. This is so sad. Rest in peace Mr. Hart, you’ll always be in our hearts and I’ll never forget the years you taught my kids. We must make sure to inform students of this death as light as possible and bring ever more awareness to mental health and suicidal topics.

  4. This is truly sensationalist journalism, it happened yesterday and the facts haven’t been compiled yet. As someone who is close to this family I find it abhorrent that pieces of news like this are coming out. Rest In Peace, Kyle. I will defend him and his sense of good will until the end.

    • Ryan, what was sensationalistic about this story?

      The information is attributed to the police, district attorney and PAUSD. It doesn’t look like the reporter made anything up in order to “hype” the story. I don’t see anything here that fits the dictionary definition of sensationalism. (This is the press release from the police: https://local.nixle.com/alert/6983176/ … you tell me if the story exaggerates the facts as reported by police. If anything, the story downplays this tragedy.)

      It’s not the media’s fault that this teacher decided to take the actions that he did, ending his life in front of his wife and child. But I guess you’re looking for somebody to blame, so why not lash out at the press?

      While you want to censor everyone else’s information, let me make the opposite argument. This situation, sadly, looks like a mental health issue. I also surmise that there may be questions about whether the police could have deescalated the confrontation, saved Kyle Hart and taken him to a hospital for help. Did the police blow it, or was this done within the department’s policies? Should we do a better job training police to deal with situations like this? Are there things we can do to prevent incidents like this, perhaps by improving how people are diagnosed with mental health problems? Those are reasonable questions, right? Ryan, we could never have any of those discussions if we went along with your call for censorship. Society doesn’t improve without an open flow of information.

  5. This is very sad, and really shocking. Mr. Hart was really nice and this is so out of character for him. I can’t imagine how hard this is on his wife.

    Greene Middle School responded appropriately and considered the impact on students. Gunn, on the other hand, completely ignored the tragedy and the impact on Mr. Hart’s former students. In fact, the Wellness Center staff were unavailable to students seeking support during flex; instead prioritizing a staff meeting. WHat’s the point in having a Wellness Center when the staff makes themselves unavailable at a crucial time?

  6. This is so sad. What a tragedy & unnecessary shooting! I always wonder why highly trained police officers, who I’d imagine would be excellent marksmen, cannot simply shoot a suspect in the knee, or the hand holding the gun…. why does the person have to sustain lethal shot wounds? I am not trained with guns, but would imagine that there must be parts of the body that can be shot at whithout killing the person. Both my kids had Mr. Hart in class in 7th grade at JLS Middle School, and for a Living Skills Class in High School during a summer session. He was a quiet soul, but a lovely teacher according to my kids, recognizing his former middle school student & reconnecting with him during his class this past summer. Our deepest condolences to his wife and young children!

  7. @Katja,

    I know it seems reasonable that cops should be able to hit a person in a non-lethal place, but the problem is if they aim at a smaller target (e.g. knee, hand with the knife, etc) their odds of missing go way up, and then the cop gets killed. Hitting a moving target is hard enough, but aiming for an extremity on a moving target would be suicidal of the cop. In gun self-defense training they teach this concept well, and teach to always aim for the largest part of the target if you can’t afford to miss.

    My kids also had Mr. Hart for 7th grade social studies at JLS, and they are shocked by this event and very saddened. We are praying for his wife and children.

    I have no doubt that the cop that fired wishes he had not had to, and

  8. Police officers are not allowed to shoot to wound. If there is a perceived threat to them or anyone else…when they fire, they fire to kill. This man, as sad as this is, was running toward officers with a butcher knife. They tried to subdue with tasers and when that failed, they shot to kill. If they had shot to wound and then been killed themselves….how many times have we seen a suicidal parent try to take their family with them? The whole thing is terribly tragic. My heart breaks for the family and the officers involved.

  9. I don’t want to fault police because i think most do a good job. I think the pressure facing police officers is tremendously difficult. I mean you’ve got a person lunging at you with a knife, how do you respond? From the story, it seems they fired a taser, but it didn’t work. What’s next? Can you throw a net over the person, to subdue them, so that they don’t attack? I don’t want to second-guess the police, and I think it’s appropriate that DA Wagstaffe investigate. Not because I think police are inherently bad, but because we need to find a way to prevent situations like this in the future.

  10. I guess there will be no charges now that he is deceased but there has been something brewing for awhile and he obviously saw no way out. [Portion deleted — don’t accuse anyone of a crime who hasn’t been charged.] Monday Morning Quarterbacks, this is why law enforcement applications are down. Policemen aren’t invincible, they are only human but people expect them to be superhuman.

  11. As someone who was close to Kyle, I had him as my teacher, and he was also in fact my mentor while at JLS. He had been there for me during rough times & this is very unlike him. While it claims he was making suicidal attempts, I know that he must’ve been in a really low point to get to the point of charging officers. He was a sweet man and as I’ve said, my mentor. He should be respected in his death, and Rest In Peace.
    <3,
    A former student

  12. The only people I feel sorry for are the wife, the kids (if there are any), and the cop who had to shoot him dead. Zero sympathy for the teacher. He brought a lifetime of grief to many people. That cop will have to live with that for the rest of his life. All because this teacher couldn’t deal with whatever he had to deal with, like a man. He is the perp here. The rest are the victims.

  13. Reader says:
    December 12, 2018 11:18 am at 11:18 am

    >> The only people I feel sorry for are the wife, the kids (if there are any), etc.

    >>All because this teacher couldn’t deal with whatever he had to deal with, like a man.

    I don’t think you understand what mental illness is or is like. You might want to start with Mark Vonnegut’s 2010 book, “Just like someone without mental illness only more so: a memoir”.

  14. This is so stupid. The man’s wife calls the police to help her suicidal husband and they shoot and kill the guy??? When has a cop ever been killed by a knife-wielding suicidal man – who was not a terrorist? The lesson of all this, don’t call the cops the next time a family member is acting suicidal.

  15. As a former colleague of Kyle’s and having worked with him in his classroom for three years at JLS, I am both shocked and saddened by the tragic news. When I worked with him, he was a very kind individual and I enjoyed having conversations with him. I feel very sorry for his wife and kids and I am sending out my prayers and condolences to the Hart family.

  16. We often hear that cops must aim at center mass and can’t be trained to wound, but I have never seen any evidence to back that up. Cops rely on stories and anecdotes from senior officers rather than data. They are trained to react, not think, and to shoot to kill. They should be retrained to use judgment — especially in a situation such as this.

  17. @Also withheld: You need to educate yourself. Go and take a firearm safety course and then practice firing a handgun. It’s a lot harder than you think. Clearly the cops did use judgment which is why they tried to talk to him first, and even tried to taze him, before being forced to shoot or risk being stabbed.

    What evidence do you have to support your statements about how cops are trained? You are just wrong.

    I don’t think cops “shoot to kill,” they aim at the biggest part of the target because they can’t afford to miss. Unfortunately, the biggest part of the target is where all of the major organs are. Suggesting that cops want to kill people is irresponsible and very misguided.

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