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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Just hours after police identified Leonard Danny Statler as the man who fatally shot Kalamazoo officer Eric Zapata, Statler's mother offered an apology to the slain officer's family.
"My heart goes out to you just like it goes out to my family," Rae Booth said Tuesday evening, in the wake of the Monday night shooting. "We're all hurting, and I'm sorry, and I know if he was here to say so, he'd say he's sorry. But he can't, so I apologize for him and our family, but we're hurting, too, and we're grieving, too. And I just wish it would all go away."
Booth has no explanation for what her son did, other than the recent custody battle over his young daughter -- and his use of alcohol.
"He was drinking," she said. "He had a lot on his mind with all the separation issues from his ex-fiancee, and he just lost it. He snapped."
Relatives reiterated that message, saying Statler was drunk when he started shooting off guns, leading police to his home.
According to his record, that's not a surprise.
In 2001, Statler was arrested for second-offense drunken driving in Kalamazoo County, which landed him in jail for 50 days. The next year, he resisted three Kalamazoo police officers during an arrest, and kicked out a window of a Public Safety car.
He had to spend 90 days in jail for that 2002 incident -- for destruction of police property -- but there's no indication either way of alcohol use.
In 2007, Statler was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon after he chased a person down the street while carrying a hunting knife in Kalamazoo. He was drunk at the time, and got another 90 days on that weapons conviction.
Still, Statler's family said there's more to him than his record. In 2007, Statler was engaged to be married, and had a child. Facebook shows he attended Comstock High, although school officials refuse to confirm that.
"He had some issues years ago, but he had been clean since 2007," Booth said. "His main priority was his little girl. He was trying to clean his life up for her. (He) wanted the best for her.
"This is not in his character. He was not this type of man. He was a very loving son, very loving father, and this was just not him."
Through Facebook, his brother described Statler as a good man, despite his final moments.
A woman engaged to Statler's brother was in the home when the shooting took place, and believes he was afraid of going to jail again.
"He was not a bad man," she said. "He was good and he cared for his family. He just made the wrong decision."
Police are trying to learn more about his background and why Statler shot at police. They also aren't sure how a convicted felon was able to arm himself.
The Cuff and Ladder fund is collecting money for Zapata's family and funeral expenses. The public safety department is working with his family to see what they need.
Anyone interested in helping the cause can drop off any donations to Station 6, care of PSO Orfin, or mail them to P.O. Box 325, Schoolcraft, Mich. 49087, in care of the PSO Zapata Memorial Fund.
You may also drop off donations for the PSO Zapata Memorial Fund at any branch of the Lake Michigan Credit Union.
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