GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - An Ottawa County deputy was charged Monday with carelessdischarge of a firearm causing injury or death in the shooting ofGrand Valley State University student Derek Copp.
Deputy Ryan Huizenga was named in the warrant issued by theKalamazoo County prosecutor's office.
Copp was shot during a drug raid at his off-campus apartment onMarch 11. Huizenga was working with the West Michigan EnforcementTeam. He fired a single shot at the unarmed Copp, striking him inthe chest.
Copp's father, George Copp, wasn't aware of the charge untilcontacted Monday by 24 Hour News 8. He wasn't surprised.
"This shouldn't ever have happened," Copp said. "I'm pleased bythe outcome, but not too pleased by the whole ordeal. ...He's apretty good kid, pretty happy kid, normally."
The bullet struck Derek Copp in the right upper chest. It brokeribs, punctured a lung and pierced his liver. He was released froma hospital after about a week, returned to school, and thenhospitalized with lung problems.
He is recuperating at home, his father said Monday.
Huizenga joined the sheriff's department 12 years ago and hasworked on the drug enforcement for two years. He had been on paidleave since the shooting, but now he is on unpaid leave from thedepartment.
Derek Copp's attorney, Frederick D. Dilley, released a statementafter learning of the charge.
"We are pleased with the very rapid and thorough investigationand review by the Michigan State Police and Kalamazoo Countyprosecutor's office.
"This is a tragedy for all involved, and Derek looks forward togetting life back to normal as soon as possible."
Fink told 24 Hour News 8 he based the charge on interviews withDerek Copp, Copp's roommate and officers at the scene.
"I felt the offense fit the facts," Fink said.
He wouldn't say whether Huizenga spoke to investigators. A unionofficial had said that Huizenga refused to speak with detectivesinvestigating the shooting.
"We felt that the officer should not have discharged his weaponin this particular case, and based upon the facts and what thewitnesses told investigators, we felt it was a carelessdischarge."
Fink acknowledged that he considered the impact of such a rulingon officers who often make quick, life-and-death decisions.
"Officers do have difficult decisions; there's no doubt, andthis was a split-second decision, if you will, but this is not anintentional, planned shooting."
Fink said the search warrant to raid Copp's home was legitimateand was based on previous marijuana sales at his apartment.
Ottawa County Undersheriff Gregory A. Steigenga told 24 HourNews 8 "It's obviously an unfortunate situation all around. It's aprocess that we've been working through and will continue to workthrough."
He said the department is "accepting" of the charges broughtfourth by the prosecutor.
The Ottawa CountyDeputy Sheriff’s Association released a statement on itsWeb site regarding Deputy Huizenga's arraignment. President MatthewVanLiere said --
"Ottawa County Deputy Sheriff’s Association confirmssupport for Deputy Ryan Huizenga. Contrary to an unnamed"Union Official's" earlier account, Deputy Huizenga has cooperatedwith the both the criminal and internal investigations beingconducted by the Michigan State Police and the Ottawa CountySheriff's Office. It is the intent of the Ottawa County DeputySheriff’s Association that this cooperation will continuethroughout the duration of this matter.The Ottawa County DeputySheriff’s Association would like to confirm our ongoingsupport for Deputy Ryan Huizenga."
An official familiar with the investigation said the incidenthappened this way:
Copp and his roommate were in the dimly lit apartment about 9p.m. when they heard a knock at the back slider door. It was atthis door that previous undercover marijuana sales had taken place,the source said.
Police had planned to use a battering ram for the door, butfound the slider was open.
As police were opening the slider, Copp was pulling open theslider curtain. That is when a light mounted on an officer's weaponhit Copp in the eyes.
Copp, who has an astigmatism that makes him sensitive to light,raised his right arm to cover his eyes.
That is when the shot was fired.
The officer who fired the shot was among those who fought tosave Copp's life.
A donation account has been set up to help the family with its search to find a missing loved one.
Wind chills will be in the single figures Thursday, with snowfall totals in the 1- to 3-inch range.
The passenger in a pickup truck that slid off U.S. 31 and rolled over told 24 Hour News 8 that watching the video of the crash is "heart-wrenching."