CRIME
09/25/2012 03:01 pm ET | Updated Sep 26, 2012

Delma Towler Dead: 83-Year-Old Woman Shot By Cop 'Like An Animal,' Family Says

The family of a woman who was shot and killed by a police officer in Altavista, Va. has vowed to get justice for their slain kin.

Delma Towler, 83, was killed on Wednesday by an unidentified officer who came to her house to investigate a 911 hangup, according to WDBJ.

Towler's son, Robert Barbour, told the station his mom must have thought somebody was trying to break in.

Altavista officers heard shots fired from inside the house and saw a woman with a handgun leave the back of the house, police said. Towler's family said they think she was probably fleeing to her sister's home a couple of houses up.

According to a statement by Virginia State Police, who are now investigating the incident, "The officers approached the woman, commanding her repeatedly to put down her weapon. She refused to comply and pointed her weapon at the officers." That, state police say, is when one of the officers shot Towler.

But Towler's family tells a different story.

"It’s not over yet. I’m going to get some justice because our mother did not deserve to die like this … to be gunned down like she was an animal or a criminal,” Towler's daughter Linda Langford told the News & Advance. "If I have to spend every penny, someone’s going to pay.”

Towler might not have been aware of the two police officers dispatched to her home, because her hearing aid and glasses were found inside her home, according to her other daughter, Madeline Clark.

WSLS reports that residents in the neighborhood where Towler was killed may have been on edge after a recent "drug roundup" by Alta Vista police.

The officer who shot Towler has been put on administrative leave while state police continue their investigation.

UPDATE:

Claire G. Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said cases like this one highlight the fact that the state typically lacks independent review of incidents in which cops use lethal force.

"Each instance of lethal force by law enforcement reminds us that Virginia currently lacks citizen review boards in almost every locality leaving civilians out of the oversight process and feeling somewhat suspicious of law enforcement," Gastañaga said in an email to The Huffington Post. "For example, Nicholas Beltrante in Fairfax County, who has tried to establish a review board in that locality, has been pushing to get some transparency from the police department after victims’ families failed to get any information about various incidents of deadly force by police.”

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