DULUTH - The two women fatally shot by a Gwinnett police officer Tuesday included a 75-year-old grandmother known around the neighborhood for her meticulous landscaping skills and affinity for cats.
Family members are calling the force used by police excessive, while police officials maintain the unidentified female officer was drawn on first. An internal investigation is ongoing.
Shots fired by the officer killed Barbara Baker, 75, at the scene, police said. Her daughter, 51-year-old Penny Schwartz, died hours later at an area hospital from multiple gunshot wounds.
Police said Schwartz was suicidal and pulled a handgun on the officer when she responded to the 3557 Tracey Drive home the women shared. The officer inadvertently shot and killed Baker, but it was unclear Wednesday how she was hit, police said.
The victim's family is also at a loss.
Schwartz's son, Derrick Schwartz, 25, called the shooting "a big (expletive) mishap" and the officer who fired the shots "heartless."
"I don't see how a 75-year-old woman's going to outrun a bullet," said Schwartz, who flew in from Chicago early Wednesday. "I think it was a little excessive. You don't come to a suicide situation and start mowing people down."
Derrick Schwartz said his mother phoned him Tuesday in Chicago to warn him she was contemplating shooting herself, though to his knowledge she didn't possess a gun. Family members later informed him that his mother had been struck three times in the stomach area, and his grandmother once, he said.
He said he'd heard that Baker tried to step in the way of the officer to protect her daughter.
Penny Schwartz suffered from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory affliction of the intestines, and was heavily medicated, which could have contributed to her depression, her son said.
"She was on so many different types of meds," he said.
A report of suicide threats initially brought police to the tidy, split-level home - located off Creek Drive near Buford Highway - about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
At the scene, Baker told police Schwartz was making threats that she wanted police to shoot her, said Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman.
As the officer was speaking with Baker, her daughter came downstairs and pointed a handgun at the officer, Spellman said.
The officer, who was not harmed, fired several shots and struck both women, Spellman said.
Police said little Wednesday to illuminate exactly what had happened. The department's deadly force investigative team has joined crime scene investigators in an attempt to piece together a scenario, Spellman said.
"The exact circumstances of how the mother was shot are unknown at this time," she said.
The officer, a 10-year veteran of the force, has been placed on routine administrative leave as the investigation continues.
Family's rough month
Derrick Schwartz said family members plan to meet to discuss legal options and hash out funeral arrangements for both women. He said his mother could have also been shaken up by the recent death of family friend Clint Gercone, 24, of Berkeley Lake.
Gercone died at the scene of a July 10 single-vehicle crash in Duluth, when the driver of the Nissan truck he was in lost control and flipped the vehicle near Lake Shore Drive, police said. The driver, Christopher Davis, 22, is charged with DUI and vehicular homicide.
Derrick Schwartz said his grandmother worked hard at Home Depot to pay the mortgage herself, as his mother was disabled and couldn't work.
They were alone with the officer at the time of the shooting, he said. An aunt arrived at the scene afterward.
"(Baker) took care of everybody," said Paula Wisniewski, Derrick Schwartz's girlfriend. "She was amazing, a fun time."
Baker's neighbor, Al Sherrer, 78, said both women had lived at the home since he'd built a house next door in 1988. On a couple occasions, he said, police responded to the residence to break up "fights and domestic problems."
"(Penny Schwartz) had a couple times when she'd get real loud and cuss everybody," Sherrer said.
Sherrer recalled his elderly neighbor - divorced about six years ago from a used car salesman who moved to Florida - as a kind and industrious spirit.
"She worked all the time to pay for that house," Sherrer said.
Both women's vehicles - Schwartz's pickup truck and Baker's late-model Honda Accord - remained in the home's driveway early Wednesday afternoon, as family and neighbors moved in to take stock of the scene.
Tuesday's shooting marked the second and third people shot dead by Gwinnett police this month.
Three undercover officers opened fire on a suspect police said was armed during a cocaine raid July 1 at a Lawrenceville home, killing him. They also were placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. Spellman said those officers had been cleared to return to active duty, but the investigation remains open.