GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Body camera video released by Grand Rapids police appears to show a man raise a gun at an officer before two officers shot and wounded him.
The man was hit by multiple shots — three was the initial guess from responding officers — and was taken to a hospital where he was listed in serious condition. He was expected to survive and was alert and conscious as of Thursday afternoon.
According to the Grand Rapids Police Department, officers were sent to the area near Forrester Street and Bonita Drive SE around 1:45 a.m. Thursday to look for a suspect reportedly breaking into cars. Police released a recording of the 911 call that brought officers there. In it, a man says someone is walking around looking into cars on his street.
GRPD released the bodycam video at a news conference late Thursday afternoon, around 16 hours after the shooting.
“In this day and age, as video becomes more ubiquitous and they’re everywhere: If it’s not bodyworn camera video, it’s dashcam video, it’s cellphone video, it’s Ring door cameras,” GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom said. “There is a demand from the public that if they know there’s video out there, they want to see the video. And in the spirit of transparency, I think it’s important to build that trust. If we have the ability to show it and it’s not going to negatively impact a criminal investigation, I think it’s incumbent upon us to do so as fast as possible for that transparency.”
In the video, the officers can be seen pulling up with the lights on their cruiser flashing. They see the man and quickly get out of the cruiser. The 911 caller described a man in a coat and with a backpack. The man in the video appeared to be wearing a coat and carrying a backpack.
After the officers got out of the car, they could be heard in the video saying, “Hey, hold up,” “stop,” and “come here.” They started running almost immediately, apparently giving chase, and soon called for the man to stop and show them his hands. The officers drew their sidearms.
“Something in his hand! Drop the gun!” one of the officers shouted.
As the officers neared the man, the video appears to show him raise a gun toward one of them. Police say it was a loaded semi-automatic 9 mm handgun.
The officer at whom the gun was pointed shouted an expletive. The video then recorded the sound of gunfire — between six and 10 shots, though audio distortion makes it difficult to tell for certain. The man fell.
Winstrom said it did not seem that the man fired any shots but that an official investigation would have to determine that for certain.
When the gunfire stopped, the officers reported shots fired over their radios and shouted at the man to show his hands.
“Subject here just pulled a firearm. Shots have been fired,” the second officer reported over his radio.
The officers checked in with one another: “Are you good? Are you good?”
Neither were injured.
Chief Winstrom said everything he saw in the video seemed to him to be in line with departmental procedures and that he would have done the same as his officers if he had been the responding officer.
“The individual very clearly is pointing a fully loaded handgun at my police officers,” Winstrom said.
Michigan State Police immediately took over the investigation as it does with any shooting involving GRPD officers. The county prosecutor will decide whether the officers were justified in their use of force or whether charges are warranted. There will also be a separate internal GRPD investigation.
On Thursday morning, Winstrom said the neighborhood would be canvassed to determine whether the officers’ bullets may have hit anything else. He said it looked to him in the video that the officers were shooting toward a park, not any homes.
The neighborhood where it happened near Ken-O-Sha Park is quiet and peaceful, with deer often roaming the area. So when Grand Rapids police came knocking at Henry Foster’s door around 2 a.m. asking if anyone had tried to break into his car, Foster was surprised.
“(The officer) came over and she went around with her flashlight, made sure nothing happened,” Foster said. “She said there was an incident. She didn’t tell us exactly what happened.”
The officers have been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is under investigation, a common protocol for police departments. Winstrom said he informed the city manager of the shooting and called the director of the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability — GRPD’s watchdog — to go with him to the scene.
The chief said both officers have been on the force less than 10 years, neither had a disciplinary history of note and this was the first time either had been involved in a shooting.
“They’re very shaken up, as I would be, too,” Winstrom said Thursday morning, adding he had checked in briefly with them after the shooting and expected to call them in the evening to check in after they got some rest.
The name of the man who was shot was not released by GRPD, but Winstrom said he is a 26-year-old white man who lives in the area who has a criminal history.
In addition to the footage from the officers’ bodycam and dashcam, Winstrom said investigators will also canvas the neighborhood for other possible video footage of the incident.
Asked if people may be more emboldened to point guns at officers after former GRPD officer Chris Schurr was charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing Patrick Lyoya following a traffic stop in April, the chief said he wasn’t prepared to conflate the two things.
“Anytime there’s a sort of picture of a delegitimacy of law and order or the police department in general, it’s a serious concern of mine,” he said. “I don’t know that that’s what we’re seeing in Grand Rapids. In fact, we’ve seen, just in the month of August, we’ve seen a significant decrease in violent crime. … So I can’t explain this individual’s behavior.”
He said larcenies from cars are fairly common in any city. What’s not common, he said, is for a suspect to draw a gun on officers.
“There have been nine officer-involved shootings (in Grand Rapids) in the last 10 years, three of them in the past five and a half months…” Winstrom said. “So that is alarming, but I think if you look at them individually, this not a very common occurrence that we have someone breaking into cars that then has a fully-loaded 9 mm handgun pointed at police officers.”
The third shooting he referred to happened June 24, when police say someone in a stolen car shot at an officer, who then returned fire. Neither officer nor suspect was hit by any bullets in that case.
West Michigan has seen a rash of car thefts this summer, including a surge in thefts of Kias and Hyundais. Winstrom said he didn’t think this case was linked to the so-called Kia Boys, who usually operate in groups, whereas the man in this case was alone. To avoid having your car broken into, Winstrom advised drivers to lock their cars and park in a well-lit place if possible.
“Be a good neighbor,” he added. “This incident tonight, there were just a lot of neighbors that said they don’t want to put up with this and they’re going to call (911). A lot of individuals, too, have been putting up doorbell cameras.”
He said not only do home surveillance cameras help police solve crimes, but they are also a fairly effective deterrent.
—News 8’s Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.
*Correction: A previous version of this article included an incorrect intersection for the location of the shooting. We regret the error, which has been fixed.