Witness thanks sheriff’s sgt. who shot suspect

Calhoun County deputies at the scene of a deputy-involved shooting in Springfield. (Feb. 3, 2016)


SPRINGFIELD, Mich. (WOOD) — Dennis Jones watched from his picture window with his own gun at the ready as a sheriff’s sergeant shot a robbery suspect across the street from his home.

The sergeant with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office shot the man Wednesday afternoon. Police were in the area looking for the suspect after they got a tip that someone matching the description of the perpetrator was in the area.

When the sergeant attempted the stop the suspect in his truck, the driver kept going. After a short pursuit, he stopped at a home in the 300 block of 30th Street in Springfield, went into the garage and came out armed with what appeared to be a pistol.

“[The officer] didn’t have backup at the time,” Jones told 24 Hour News 8. “I was watching for the policeman not to go down. If he were to, I’m afraid I probably would’ve ran and stood in for him.”

That never became necessary. The sergeant was not hurt.

“The sergeant’s training kicked in,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Saxton said. “He did take cover behind his patrol vehicle, ordered the suspect to drop the weapon several times and was forced into using deadly force to bring this to a resolution.”

The sergeant opened fire, shooting the suspect twice in the torso.

Jones said the sergeant tried to avoid shooting the man.

“Eight, 10, 12 times, I heard him yell loudly to some effect, ‘put the gun down,'” Jones said. “The guy didn’t do it.”

The suspect — identified as 50-year-old Derrick Shirk — was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon. Saxton said his injuries are believed to be non-life threatening.

A subsequent investigation revealed the suspect was carrying an airsoft gun, the sheriff said.

Battle Creek police are in charge of the investigation into the shooting.

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office is also conducting an internal probe. Saxton said their investigation so far shows that the officer acted appropriately given the potential threat posed by the suspect.

Dennis Jones says he agrees.

“When it stopped … I knew then that he had done his duty,” Jones said. “I’d say thanks for a good job.”

Shirk has a lengthy criminal history including convictions for armed robbery and breaking and entering. In the late 1980s, he was convicted for escaping from prison. The Michigan Department of Corrections listed him has a parole absconder at the time of the shooting.

Information about what new charges would be filed against him was not immediately released.

Jones said he had seen the suspect living at the property where the shooting happened for about the past month.

Saxton said the sergeant who fired the shots has been with the force since 2002.

“Any time officers are involved with a officer-involved shooting, it’s a tough time for the whole agency, specifically for that officer involved,” Saxton said. “There’s not an officer that comes to work that plans to or wants to have to use their service weapon.”

He said the sergeant is being reassigned administratively until the investigation is complete.

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