Prosecutor: Fatal shooting of man justified

Police investigate a fatal shooting at a home in the 1200 block of N. Dennis Road in Amber Township, northeast of Ludington. (Jan. 15, 2014)
Police investigate a fatal shooting at a home in the 1200 block of N. Dennis Road in Amber Township, northeast of Ludington. (Jan. 15, 2014)

AMBER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) – The fatal shooting of a man by a Michigan State Police trooper during a domestic violence investigation has been ruled legally justified by the county prosecutor.

William (Bill) Marble, 68, was shot on the night of Jan. 14 at his residence in the 1200 block of N. Dennis Road in Amber Township, northeast of Ludington.

His wife, Nancy Marble, said she was having problems with the phone at their home, so she called 911 and 411 to see why, as the couple were watching television. Her first phone call to 911 was at 10:45 p.m., and she told the dispatcher in part, “There’s something wrong with my phone.” A second, similar 911 call was received at dispatch. The dispatcher called back at the house to inquire about the problem, and the same woman answered the phone. She repeated in a frustrated matter, “There’s something wrong with my phone!” A third call then got disconnected.

Michigan State Police Troopers James Luttrull and Alexander Hammerle were dispatched to the residence to further investigate. Luttrull arrived first and heard the couple arguing inside.

“Threats of violence uttered by Bill Marble were overheard and recorded” on Luttrull’s wireless microphone that was hooked to his uniform, according to a news release from Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola’s office.

William Marble (courtesy photo)
William Marble (courtesy photo)

Trooper Luttrull heard the couple refer to each other by first name, and “both parties sounded intoxicated, with slurred speech, occasionally profane.”

The argument was about Nancy’s undisclosed medical condition, and whether William’s undisclosed medical condition was connected. Nancy said she was very concerned about her condition, which her sister-in-law said is treatable. She was also concerned that William had given this condition to her.

Nancy, who said she was depressed from the weekend, also stated that she feared William was going to kill her.

The argument between the couple lasted 27 minutes.

Both troopers knocked on the front door, which Nancy opened and loudly announced, “The police are here, Bill.”

Luttrull asked Nancy if everything is alright, and she said, “I’m doing OK.” Luttrull told her that he overheard the couple’s argument. Nancy again called for Bill, who was heard saying, “I am coming.”

William came from the opposite end of the house and stared at the troopers, Luttrull later told investigators during an interview. Luttrull said it appeared William had a dark-colored object in his right hand. Luttrull said he used his flashlight to illuminate William’s hand area. Luttrull then noticed that William was holding a semi-automatic handgun, which was pointed at the midsections of the two troopers, the prosecutor said.

The troopers drew their guns and stated, “Drop,” to Willliam.

Hammerle later told investigators during an interview that he was in fear of his life with William pointing a gun at them.

Luttrull was also scared.

“I was frightened, and felt that Bill was about to shoot Trooper Hammerle and I,” Luttrull told investigators. “Fearing for my life and that of my partner, I drew my department-issued [handgun] and fired one round at the suspect.”

Luttrull gave numerous loud, verbal commands, “Drop the gun, Bill. Drop the gun, Bill. Get on the floor. Get on the floor. Get away from the gun. Get away from the gun. Bill, I need you to do yourself and Nancy a favor and get away from the gun.”

But Bill did not obey orders. Nancy also yelled at her husband to lie down, and even tried to pick up the gun, but was told by the troopers to move away from the weapon, Luttrull said. And she did.

It was less than 45 seconds from the time Luttrull knocked on the door to when his gun was fired, according to the prosecutor. Trooper Hammerle told dispatch at 11:29 p.m. that a shot was fired.

Hammerle said William went down to a knee to the ground, and then on his left side, and continued to disobey orders to drop his gun. So the troopers approached him and secured the weapon when Luttrull moved the loaded gun away from William and handcuffed him.

Nancy then went to a bathroom, and it took several minutes to coax her out later.

The troopers used a first-aid kit in one of their cars and tended to William’s injury, as they waited for an ambulance to arrive. William was taken to a hospital where he died. An autopsy revealed the bullet grazed his right hand, entered his chest and lodged in his left shoulder blade.

MSP released the following statement when the investigation began –

“State Police personnel are required to follow strict guidelines in the discharge of weapons. MSP policy permits to point or discharge a firearm in self-defense or defense of another when he or she reasonably believes there is imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”

Trooper Luttrull was put on administrative leave when the investigation began, which is department policy. He has been with Michigan State Police for 5.5 years.

On Feb. 6, Prosecutor Spaniola handed over an 18-page legal opinion to Michigan State Police investigators, stating in part “the deadly force was reasonable in that situation.”

The Marbles got married in 2010. This was Nancy’s second marriage and the fifth for William. They were retired teachers from Mason County Eastern Schools. William did not have a criminal history.

Authorities said Nancy was intoxicated the night of the shooting, after she and William had some drinks at the Ludington Elks Lodge earlier in the evening. Staff from the bar told investigators that Nancy had three rum and Cokes, and William had three glasses of wine, but the couple did not appear to be visibly intoxicated.

The couple then went to a drugstore where they bought some rum, wine, and scotch, the prosecutor said. They then bought some fast food to take home and eat.

Nancy told investigators that she had been drinking rum and Coke throughout the evening. She also said her husband had a drinking problem.

Nancy’s sister-in-law told investigators that Bill was an alcoholic but that she had never seen him be physically abusive to Nancy.

Nancy’s son, David Rodriquez, who is an officer with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Police Department, was interviewed by investigators. Rodriguez said Bill Marble was a serious alcoholic, and that he suffered from breathing issues that required constant treatment. Rodriguez said William had a large number of firearms, both pistols and long guns, stored throughout the home. Rodriquez said William had always seemed respectful of police, and that he was completely surprised when he heard that William had pointed a gun at the troopers.

The gun that William pointed at the troopers was legally registered to him. Nancy told investigators that she didn’t know why Bill would bring a gun to the door.

This wasn’t the first time William had pointed a gun at someone.

Two UPS delivery men went to the Marbles’ home the day before Thanksgiving 2013 to drop off a package. One of the deliverers went to the door and was greeted by Bill, who pointed a gun at the UPS employee, according to the prosecutor. The incident was not reported to police.

The prosecutor said William “acted willfully and that it was not a mere accident or happenstance that he approached the door with a loaded handgun when uniformed personnel were at the door.”

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