Officers justified in shooting assault suspect

Steven Goble. (Undated courtesy photo)
Steven Goble. (Undated courtesy photo)

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia County prosecutor has ruled police officers were justified in shooting and killing a man following a vehicle and foot pursuit in early May.

Steven Goble, 31, died the evening of May 4 in a field in the area of Hubbell Road and M-66 in Orleans Township, north of the City of Ionia.

According to the ruling issued Thursday from Ionia County Prosecutor Ronald Schafer, officers first tried to arrest Goble after he violently assaulted his wife, sending her to the emergency room twice in two days.

But Goble didn’t stop when officers tried to pull him over. The prosecutor says he led officers on a chase through northern Ionia County — first in a box delivery truck and then on foot through several fields — that lasted about two and a half hours.

During that time, he called his ex-wife to say goodbye to his children and his boss, at which point he said “he was going to commit suicide by cop,” the ruling says.

The pursuit came to an end, the prosecutor says, when Goble approached officers, shouting at them to “shoot him,” and “I know you want to go home to your families and the only way to do that is to shoot me.”

Officers ordered Goble to drop the weapon, but he refused. He then shot toward a Michigan State Police trooper with a pump-action shotgun, hitting the trooper’s cruiser.

The trooper returned fire, but Goble was not shot. He continued to advance on officers and ignore commands to drop his gun, acting “antagonistic,” the prosecutor said.

Officers opened fire again, shooting Goble once. They radioed for medical help. Goble lay on his back, and didn’t let go of his gun when officers told him to drop it so they could help him, saying that he didn’t want help, the prosecutor said.

The officers approached Goble behind a ballistic shield, still telling him to drop the gun. Then, the prosecutor’s report says, Goble “sat up and began laughing for several seconds, still holding onto his shotgun.”

He began to point it at officers, the report says, at which point three officers fired a total of four shots, shooting Goble twice more.

They handcuffed Goble and attempted first aid, but the report said “it was clear the suspect had sustained fatal injuries.”

The prosecutor said officers’ accounts of the incident was backed up by physical evidence and civilian witness statements.

Goble’s death was ruled the result of multiple gunshots wounds, the prosecutor’s report said. He was shot a total of three times: Once in his left arm, once in the chest and once just below his left eye.

MSP Trooper Aaron McCormick, MSP Sgt. Aaron Sweeney, MSP Sgt. Scott Ziesman and Ionia County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joseph White were justified in opening fire on Goble because they had reason to believe they and others were in danger, according to the prosecutor’s ruling.

The prosecutor said Goble — who had a criminal history including assault, fleeing police and malicious threats — had led them on a dangerous chase that threatened the public and twice made comments about forcing police to shoot him.

Toxicology results showed Goble did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death, the ruling said, showing “he was of clear mind during the incident.”

“Steven Goble was afforded every opportunity possible on May 04, 2014 to surrender, however, he took his life into his own hands,” the ruling reads in part.

“This situation was suicide-by-cop forced upon the responding officers by an individual with a clear and stated purpose of ending his life,” the prosecutor concluded.

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