Police identify suspect fatally shot by officers after chase

Crime scene techs on the scene after an officer-involved shooting that left one suspect dead and another wounded. (May 14, 2015)


PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) – Police have identified two brothers, one of whom was fatally shot and the other injured, after a high-speed police chase in Kalamazoo County early Thursday afternoon.

Sean Michael Pelletier, 37, of Portage, was shot to death by officers after exiting the vehicle driven by his brother, 29-year-old Aaron Joseph Pelletier, also of Portage, after the vehicle crashed at Anna’s Vineyard Apartments off Milham Avenue southwest of the I-94/US-131 interchange.

The chase began around 12:45 p.m. after Aaron Pelletier failed to pull over the Acura he was driving when Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputies initiated a traffic stop. During the chase, Sean Pelletier could be seen holding what police called a “high-powered military-style rifle,” according to a release from Michigan State Police.

Police said Sean Pelletier was wanted on an outstanding trespassing warrant connected to an ongoing eviction process.

According to Gary E. Tibble, an attorney for Christine Pelletier, who is the mother of the suspects, Christine Pelletier was trying to evict Sean Pelletier and two daughters from her Portage home. Tibble said the Pelletier brothers had failed to show up in court in the regards to the eviction, they didn’t work, did not pay rent and had a lot of property at their mother’s house, including farm animals and trash.

Police initially became involved in the situation because Sean Pelletier had allegedly threatened a process server in the eviction. Additionally, Tibble said the suspects were known to be “conspiracy theorists” and police wanted to avoid a “Waco-style situation.”

As a result, Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputies wanted to arrest Sean Pelletier during a traffic stop because they thought it would be more peaceful than trying to arrest him at home, where he was believed to have weapons.

“The sheriff’s office was trying to do the safe thing by taking the passenger off on the warrants on a traffic stop, and unfortunately it resulted in a pursuit,” Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz said.

After about half an hour, the chase ended with a crash at the apartment complex. Police say dash cam video clearly shows what happened next: Sean Pelletier got out of the car, then reached back in and retrieved the rifle.

That’s when a number of law enforcement officers from MSP, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety opened fire.

“It’s obviously an unfortunate situation and it’s definitely something we don’t take lightly in law enforcement,” Hinz said. “It’s something we don’t want to have to do, but when we’ve got a person posing a threat like that with a high-powered rifle in a very populated apartment complex like that, we have to end the situation.”

Jory Grant, who lives in a front apartment at the Anna’s Vineyard Apartments, told 24 Hour News 8 she saw an officer get out of his cruiser after the suspects made a U-turn to get into the complex. She said the officer fired five or six shots into the car.

Kaetlyn Arnold, another Anna’s Vineyard resident, also witnessed the shooting. She said she first heard between 10 and 15 shots fired outside of the complex while the chase was still happening and went to her balcony to see what was happening.

“It looked to me like the driver had been hit because his head was kind of back,” she said. “It looked like the passenger grabbed the steering wheel to continue driving the vehicle.”

Jermeay Smith said he watched the shooting happen just outside his apartment after the crash. He said the driver appeared to be already injured.

“The passenger was outside the vehicle. The cops kept screaming at him to get down on the ground,” Smith said. “When he didn’t comply — he kept staring at the cops, fidgeting around after they told him so many times — they opened up fired. He hit the ground.”

Why the Pelletier brothers pulled into the apartment complex was not immediately clear — neither lived there and police said they don’t seem to have any ties there.

As of Thursday night, Aaron Pelletier was still listed in critical condition at a local hospital. Police have not yet released what charges he could face.

No officers were injured in the incident.

Friday night Portage Public Schools reached out to WOOD TV8 to clarify why its schools did not go into lockdown Thursday during the incident.  A district spokeswoman says the district talked to police and police did not believe there was any threat to the schools or the students and that the incident was not within walking distance of any Portage school.

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