KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The video doesn’t tell the whole story, the attorney for a former Mattawan police officer accused of firing recklessly at a suspect vehicle said in defense of his client.
Police cruiser dashcam video from the Nov. 3 incident shows former rookie officer Chelsey Omilian shooting down Main Street in Mattawan at the fleeing suspects’ car. The suspects were in a vehicle that had been reported stolen and took off when Omilian approached them.
The Van Buren County prosecutor later charged Omilian with reckless use of a firearm, a 90-misdemeanor.
“There are two sides to every story,” Omilian’s attorney Randall Levine told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.
Levine said the officer was only trying to protect the public when she fired at the fleeing Chevrolet Impala.
“She had a parole absconder who was driving a stolen vehicle, who she had reason to believe was armed and dangerous,” Levine said.
24 Hour News 8 was not able to confirm the suspect, Gary Kingsbury III, was a parole absconder.
Out of view of the dashcam, Levine said, Omilian approached the suspect vehicle and ordered the three occupants out when the driver tried to hit her as he fled.
But the video appears to show a different story. In it, Omilian is seen approaching the car after she got out of her patrol car on Main near W. McGillen Avenue. She can be seen walking up as the car pulls away, appearing to simply go past her.
When asked by 24 Hour News 8 if that viewing of the video was missing something, Levine replied, “It’s easy to be critical and to play Monday morning quarterback.”
But even if Omilian did feel threatened, was she justified in opening fire as the car sped down Main Street? The prosecutor didn’t think so. In the video, other vehicles can be seen approaching from the opposite direction as Omilian shot at the Impala.
“She had to make a split-second decision and tried to stop him. Unfortunately, she was not successful in doing so,” Levine said.
The three suspects’ escape was short-lived. One sustained minor injuries when she was hit by the officer’s gunfire. The trio ditched the car a short distance from the scene. Mattawan High School was locked down after a suspect went into the school. Police quickly arrested her and the other suspects.
As for Omilian, she’s off the Mattawan force. Levine wouldn’t say if she was fired or left the department on her own.
A jury will decide her fate on the charges, which Levine believes were the result of increased police scrutiny caused by national events.
“Unfortunately in this situation, I think a rush to judgment occurred and a decision to charge her was made prematurely,” Levine said.
Omilian previously worked for the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety for a short time starting in 2016. Levine said she left to join the Mattawan Police Department.