GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Since taking the job in late 2016, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker has ruled on 11 officer-involved shootings. The death of Patrick Lyoya will be his 12th — and will come with more public pressure than ever to file criminal charges.
Of the 11 cases, only one has resulted in a criminal charge, a misdemeanor. None have resulted in felony charges. Here is a breakdown of those 11 decisions.
MARCH 28, 2017
Becker’s first ruling involved a deadly shooting during a domestic altercation. A Kent County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Jonathan Sper at a home in Algoma Township.
According to police, Sper had attacked his brother, who subsequently locked him in the garage. Sper had been diagnosed with severe mental illness years earlier and was believed to be in a “manic state.” Deputies were also under the impression that Sper had accessed a gun and was also under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
When deputies arrived and tried to place Sper under arrest, he attacked, hitting one deputy multiple times and knocking them down a staircase. The deputy fired his Taser twice, but neither were effective. At some point in the chaos, Sper stabbed one deputy with a sharp object and ran back up the stairs toward his brother.
Becker said the deputy was justified in shooting Sper to stop him from attacking his brother again.
“That’s the option he chose and I can’t say it’s not justified by doing that,” Becker said.
MAY 30, 2017
Two months later, Becker ruled three Grand Rapids Police Department officers were justified in shooting and killing 18-year-old Malik Carey.
The officers found Carey sitting in the backseat of a car on Dickinson Street near Kalamazoo Avenue on Grand Rapids’ southeast side. Carey reportedly gave them a fake name, but once they confirmed his true identity and that he was considered a probation absconder, the officers tried to place him under arrest.
That’s when Carey pulled a gun from his waistband and fired four shots at the officers. No officers were hit. The officers returned fire and hit him twice. Carey eventually died at a hospital.
Becker said that had Carey survived, he would have been charged with attempted murder for the shots fired at the officers.
DEC. 6, 2017
Becker decided against any criminal charges against a Kent County deputy who shot and injured a man but called his actions “completely wrong.”
Deputy Andrew Hinds was working alongside the county’s Tactical Team and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, trying to track down two suspected drug traffickers — Yusef Phillips and Ray Lee. Authorities believed the two suspects were going to pick up a large amount of drugs and bring them to an apartment near Burton Street and the East Beltline.
Police confronted the men and Hinds claimed he saw Phillips reach for his waistband before firing one shot into his chest. It was determined later that Phillips was unarmed.
“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 toward myself and my teammates. I believed he posed an immediate threat,” Hinds told investigators.
Becker said while Hinds made the wrong decision, he couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hinds didn’t act in self-defense.
“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,” Becker said.
Police found 30 kilograms of cocaine and heroin in the apartment, along with several pounds of marijuana, several guns and nearly $1 million in cash.
APRIL 23, 2018
Becker ruled in favor of three Wyoming officers who encountered a suicidal man at a cemetery.
According to the prosecutor, 52-year-old Joel Peloquin approached several people at the Resurrection Cemetery in Wyoming and told them he was going to take his own life. Police were called to the scene and they encountered Peloquin.
As he tried to run away, two of the officers saw he had a gun. Then Peloquin turned and raised the gun. Two of the officers fired shots, saying they were concerned for their safety and the other bystanders in the cemetery. The third officer saw that Peloquin was raising the gun toward his own head.
Peloquin was hit by three shots from the officers but the fatal wound was self-inflicted. Officers hit him in the chest, thigh and upper arm, but the medical examiner ruled none of the shots would have killed him.
Becker said witness statements and other evidence found at the scene corroborated the officers’ testimony.
JULY 6, 2018
Two Wyoming police officers were not criminally charged for firing their guns during a domestic disturbance call.
No one was hit by any shots.
The shooting happened at the Timber Ridge Apartments on 44th Street. Officers were called to the scene after one man claimed his roommate, Cory Robinson, was dealing with mental health issues and asked for a friend to bring him a gun and some ammo.
When police arrived, the man snapped and tried to break through a door. Officers said they distinctly heard Robinson loading a weapon and as they retreated, one officer fired a shot after he saw Robinson raise a gun.
Seconds later, officers outside the building saw a man trying to escape out a window. Believing it to be Robinson and believing he was armed, an officer fired on shot. They soon realized it was Robinson’s roommate coming out of the window and he was holding his cellphone. The officers told Becker they had instructed the roommate to stay locked in the bathroom.
Becker called the first shooting “not an unreasonable decision” and the second “a mistake, but the law allows for a mistake in a turbulent decision like this.”
The roommate wasn’t satisfied with that answer, telling News 8: “If I’d stayed where I was like they told me to, he could have come right back upstairs and killed me. … How many guns do you know that light up with a cell phone screen in the middle of the night? It’s not very mistakable.”
NOV. 4, 2019
Becker ruled on only one officer-involved shooting in 2019, choosing not to file criminal charges against a Wyoming police officer who responded to a domestic disturbance.
The incident happened on Walter Street between Division and Jefferson avenues. Manuel Cavasos’ girlfriend called police, claiming the two had just had a heated argument. When officers arrived, they saw Cavasos was armed with a knife.
Cavasos was shot once and hit in the chest. Officers then jumped in and administered first aid. Cavasos reached a plea deal and was sentenced to 270 days in jail.
JAN. 9, 2020
Becker cleared a Kent County deputy of any wrongdoing after a deadly shooting at a home in Gaines Township.
Police were called to a home in the early morning hours for a domestic disturbance. Investigators said when two deputies arrived Steven Saucier answered the door and brandished a gun. A fight broke out and when Saucier pointed the gun at one of the deputies, the other fired a single shot, hitting him in the chest. Saucier died at the scene.
“There is no necessity under the law that he’s got to wait for a shot to be fired, given the circumstances,” Becker said.
According to Becker, dashcam from the deputies’ car shows Saucier shove one deputy to the ground and holding his gun in a “low ready position.” Becker’s report also noted Saucier’s blood alcohol content level at the time was at least 0.24% — three times the legal driving limit.
JULY 30, 2021
A Kentwood police officer was cleared of any wrongdoing after shooting and injuring a man. The incident happened near 44th Street and Stauffer Avenue. Someone called 911, claiming Salim Powell was outside with a gun, shouting and had fired one shot in the air. The caller claimed Powell’s family was trying to calm him down but he walked away.
Responding officers found Powell about a block away, still holding the gun. Dashcam shows the officers telling Powell to drop the gun twice. Then, Powell lifted the gun into a “firing position.” One of the officers fired three shots, hitting Powell in the stomach once.
Powell was ultimately charged with felonious assault for the shot fired into the air and later pleaded down to a misdemeanor weapons charge. Becker said the officer’s shooting was justified because Powell had already fired once, appeared ready to fire again and refused instructions to drop his weapon.
DEC. 15, 2021
Five months later, Becker again cleared a Kentwood police officer of any wrongdoing for a deadly shooting.
Police were called to a home on Grantwood Avenue near 44th Street and Eastern Avenue. Bodycam from the officer showed the police response to the scene. They found 60-year-old Kim Douglas Ropp attacking his housemate with a knife. He had already stabbed another person in the stomach. The officer fired two bean bags at Ropp to try and get him to stop but had no effect.
Then, after the officer told him to drop the knife, Ropp, who was only a few feet away, turned toward the officer. The officer shot and killed him.
The autopsy showed Ropp’s BAC was 0.29%. The two people who were attacked by Ropp survived their injuries.
JAN. 21, 2022
Becker filed a misdemeanor charge against a Grand Rapids police officer after his gun accidentally fired.
Gregory Bauer was charged with one count of careless discharge of a firearm causing property damage less than $50. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.
Bauer and other officers were looking for a stolen car. The suspect was believed to be armed. When officers thought they saw the car parked on at a home on Cass Avenue, they set up a perimeter and waited for the driver to step out of the car. When he did, Bauer ran toward him and his gun fired. The bullet hit a building. No one was hurt.
“It’s carelessness. This was not intentional, this is not malicious,” Becker said. “This was something that shouldn’t have happened, obviously but it did. And based on all the facts and circumstances that I’ve reviewed, I felt there’s a sufficient basis to file this careless discharge charge.”
Driver Daevionne Smith was not the suspect. He wasn’t even driving the same model car. Smith has filed a civil lawsuit against Bauer and GRPD for gross negligence and emotional distress.
That bullet was inches away from my face,” Smith told News 8. “The simple fact that they failed to do what they were trained to do as officers, as far as checking plates and making sure you have the right person.”
The Grand Rapids Police Command Association disagreed with the decision to file any criminal charges. President Geoff Collard called it an “unfortunate, traumatic” incident, but referred to the gun firing as “an accident that occurred during a high stress, rapidly evolving incident.”
Bauer is expected to go to trial later this year.
MAY 3, 2022
Becker chose not to file charges against a Kent County deputy who opened fire at the scene of a crash because he mistook the sound of a utility pole breaking as gunfire.
The crash happened in the early hours of March 18. An SUV had hit a power pole on 36th Street near Patterson Avenue in Cascade Township. According to Becker, while the deputies were in their cruiser doing paperwork, the pole started to fall and made a popping noise that “sounded remarkably similar” to gunfire.
The deputy thought someone had opened fire on his partner. So he responded with two shots toward the driver of the crashed car, who was sitting in the grass farther down the street. No one was hurt.
Becker’s office transcribed an exchange over the police radio when the deputy reported he had opened fire.
“You can hear (the deputy’s partner) state, ‘What? Shots fired?’” the decision said. “(The deputy) then says, ‘I thought I heard gunshots.’ (The deputy’s partner) responded, ‘No, you heard the pole snapping. Get out of the way.’”
At a news conference, Becker said, “It was a mistake. The law allows for a mistake to occur.”
— WOOD-TV is investigating a 12th officer-involved shooting that happened in Wyoming in 2017. However, there is no evidence that Becker or the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office made a decision in that case. We have reached out to Becker and the Prosecutor’s Office for clarification. We will update the story with any relevant information.