Prosecutor: Deputy ‘wrong’ for shooting suspect, no charges

A still image from surveillance video provided by the Kent County Prosecutor's Office shows officers approaching both suspects on a walkway moments before the Sept. 3, 2017 shooting. A flashlight is turned on and something is in front of Yusef Phillips. (Kent County Prosecutor's Office)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A deputy who shot a drug trafficking suspect will not be facing charges even though prosecutors say his actions were “completely wrong.”

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker announced Wednesday Deputy Andrew Hinds will not be charged in connection to the shooting of Yusef Phillips at the Burton’s Landing apartment complex in Grand Rapids on Sept. 3.

>>PDF: The prosecutor’s decision

On the day of the shooting, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Tactical Apprehension and Confrontation Team along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were executing multiple search warrants in the Grand Rapids area. Authorities were also trying to arrest two suspected drug traffickers — Yusef Phillips and Ray Lee.

Ray Lee, Yusef Phillips
Undated courtesy photos: Ray Lee (left) and Yusef Phillips (right).

Authorities believed the two suspects would be picking up a large amount of drugs in the 28th Street area before bringing the narcotics to a stash house, which was an apartment in the 3800 block of Whispering Way Drive SE.

Around 3:35 a.m., the suspects arrived at the apartment. When the two left the apartment complex, Hinds and other deputies came up behind them. Hinds and others then yelled, “Police! Stop, get on the ground!”

Hinds says he saw Phillips reach for his waistband just before he shot him in the chest. Phillips was critically injured, but survived the shooting.

“Yusef (Phillips) then turned quickly with his right arm coming in an upward motion. Through my aim point I could now see (Phillips) was quickly turning and moving his body in a swift movement around towards myself and my teammates. I believed he posed an immediate threat. Fearing for the safety of myself and my teammates, I squeezed off one round,” Hinds told investigators, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Investigators found the only thing that could have been in Phillips’ hands at the time of the shooting was a set of car keys.

Becker said although Hinds’ decision was wrong, it doesn’t mean it was criminal. Given the facts in the case, the prosecutor says it’s impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hinds didn’t act in self-defense.

“To find criminal misconduct on the part of Deputy Hinds, I would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was NOT in fear for his own safety or the safety of others when he shot Mr. Phillips,” Becker wrote. “There is no evidence presented here that would support any conclusion other than Deputy Hinds fired because he feared for his safety. It was incorrect, but that does not change the analysis.”

Before the shooting, DEA investigators told deputies Phillips and Lee had extensive criminal histories, and were known to carrying guns and large amount of drugs. Which Becker said was proven true when authorities search the apartment.

Inside the apartment, authorities found 30 kilograms of cocaine and heroin, multiple pounds of marijuana, nearly $1 million, three handguns, an assault rifle and body armor. Becker said this was one of the largest drug busts in Kent County history.