Flagstaff police killing highlights domestic violence dangers

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Funeral services have been set for a Flagstaff police officer killed in the line of duty.

Officer Tyler Stewart was responding to a domestic violence call on Saturday at an apartment complex.  When he tried to frisk the suspect, Robert Smith, Smith shot Officer Stewart in the face and killed himself.

Domestic violence calls can be among the most dangerous an officer can face, and domestic violence experts say the holidays always bring an uptick in abuse.

“Holidays are all about families and families tend to reunite whether there's an abusive situation going on or not. So I think tensions escalate during the holidays,” said Patricia Klahr, President/CEO of Chrysalis. Her company specializes in helping both abusers and people fleeing abuse.

Having arguments with loved ones is okay, according to Klahr. But abuse starts when arguments turn into one person controlling another.

“Some of the things might be somebody might want you to spend a lot of time with them.  Then all of sudden you’re isolated from your friends and family -- he starts monitoring phone calls or bank accounts,” said Klahr.

From there, domestic violence usually escalates quickly. For example, in the death of Officer Stewart, police said he was having a calm conversation with Smith right before bullets started flying.

Violence can erupt that fast for the person being abused as well.  Klahr said the most important safety measure is to have a plan for leaving at the first sign of violence or abuse. Things can only be worked out after everyone is safe.

“When you feel it and you know it and you know it's going to happen, especially if there are weapons involved and there have been a lot of threats of suicide or homicide or harm, you don't want to put yourself or your children through that,” said Klahr.

Officer Stewart didn't have backup because the call didn't say anything about violence still going on, further proof of how unpredictable domestic violence situations can be for everyone involved. 

Funeral services for Officer Tyler Stewart will be held on Friday morning at 10:00 at Christ’s Church in Flagstaff.