Kentwood man shot and killed by police officer

A man was shot and killed at the Sutton Club Apartments in Kentwood. (Oct. 22, 2015)


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a Kentwood police officer shot and killed a man late Wednesday night.

Police were called to the Sutton Club Apartments in the area of 60th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue SE just after 11 p.m. following reports that a 47-year-old resident of the complex had threatened to kill himself.

Two officers arrived to check on the man and one knocked on his door. At first, the man didn’t respond.

According to Kentwood Police Chief Tom Hillen, one of the officers went around to the outside of the apartment to see if he could see any movement inside. The other officer stayed in the hallway, which accesses multiple apartments.

Police investigate a deadly officer-involved shooting at the Sutton Club Apartments in Kentwood. (Oct. 22, 2015)
(Police investigate a deadly officer-involved shooting at the Sutton Club Apartments in Kentwood./Oct. 22, 2015)

Moments later, police say, the resident came out into the hallway and pointed a handgun at the officer. The officer fired, killing the man.

The officer is a six-year veteran of the Kentwood Police Department. Hillen said the officer was not injured but was “shook up.”

“We respond to many well-being, suicidal subjects. Most of them turn out to be- we’re able to handle them. In a situation like this it just didn’t work out,” Hillen said.

An autopsy has been completed, but the results had not been released as of Thursday afternoon, nor had the names of anyone involved.

“The sheriff’s department takes over the investigation,” Hillen said. “They’ll take a critical look at exactly how this happened, were there any shots fired from the subject that exited the apartment. We know that a casing was found on the floor and there was one round I believe jammed in his handgun but they’re going to get into the specifics.”

INVESTIGATING AN OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING

While the facts, as revealed by police, are pretty clear, the sheriff’s office takes an “assume-nothing” approach to the investigation.

“We really have to look at it without any preconceived notions about what events happened beforehand or events that transpired afterwards.” Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young said. “We really have to look at it with the fresh set of eyes, to say what’s the evidence, what’s the information we have, compile that together.”

While not releasing any specifics about this case, Young did talk about the investigative process.

“We investigate it really in the same way we investigate most shootings that happen,” she said.

Sheriff’s office detectives will be on a fact-finding  mission, gathering evidence and talking to witnesses.

“We’re going to try to make sure that there are no unanswered gaps of time or sequence of events that have happened that haven’t been documented,” Young said.

Kentwood police will run a separate, non-criminal internal investigation to make sure department policies were followed. Even if they were, they’ll look at whether changes to policy could prevent future incidents.

While Kentwood police handed the case involving one of their own over to the sheriff’s department, it’s still police investigating police in a national climate which often brings the actions of officers into question. So how do you assure the public that there’s going to be full transparency?

“I think the answer to that happens in the days preceding an event like this,” Young said.

Success at building community trust and transparency when it comes past cases involving officers come into play.

But there’s a fine line between transparency in an active case, like this one, and protecting an officer’s rights.

“We can’t just give information because it would be the popular answer to the community. I can’t do that, I can’t give information before it’s time for the information to be released in due process,” Young said.

She said she expects to turn the department’s investigation over to the county prosecutor for review late next week. That’s standard operating procedure in police-involved shootings.

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