BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — An 18-year-old Jackson man was shot and wounded by a Battle Creek police officer after authorities say he reached for a gun during a traffic stop shortly after midnight Tuesday.
“This started out very cooperative, very peacefully and then suddenly things just went awry very rapidly,” Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker said a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
It happened around 12:15 a.m. in a shopping center parking lot near the intersection of LaVista Boulevard and Columbia Avenue.
BCPD says an officer pulled over a man for erratic driving, stopping and backing up in the middle of the road and making an illegal turn. Blocker said the officer suspected the driver was under the influence of something.
A couple of minutes later, the BCPD officer was speaking to the cooperative driver outside the vehicle when a second police officer arrived and walked up to the passenger’s side of the car.
“This is routine,” Blocker explained.
When the second officer looked inside the car, he saw a gun in the passenger’s waistband and told him to put his hands up, police say. The second officer then said he would take the passenger’s gun. Police said the passenger initially followed the officer’s orders but began to struggle after the officer reached into the car.
“The passenger began to suddenly resist, leaned forward, extended his arm and reached for what was later determined to be a second gun on the floorboard of the vehicle near his legs,” Blocker said.
The officer fired at and hit the passenger.
Blocker said a total of two shots were fired. The passenger was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the arm. The passenger was taken by ambulance to a Kalamazoo hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening. His condition was stable at the time of the afternoon press conference.
The two police officers and the driver were not hurt.
After being arrested at the scene for traffic violations, the driver faces a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon. The passenger, the man who was shot, faces charges of carrying a concealed weapon and resisting and obstructing an officer. Their names were not released pending arraignment.
Both the driver and the passenger are from Jackson, though police say the man who was shot may have once lived in the Battle Creek area. The driver is 21 years old and the passenger 18. Both are Black.
Blocker said both men have criminal histories and the man who was shot is currently on probation and faces felony narcotics charges in Jackson County. Blocker said BCPD was familiar with the driver.
The first officer on the scene has been with BCPD for three years and in law enforcement for seven, Blocker said. The second officer, the one who fired the shots, has been with the department for 2.5 years and in law enforcement for six. Both are white. Their names also weren’t released.
Police say they recovered two handguns, both loaded. The one in the passenger’s waistband was a 9 mm stolen in Jackson County’s Blackman Township in 2015. The other, the one on the floorboard, was a .25 caliber semiautomatic registered in Jackson in 1992, but Blocker said the person to whom it is registered was born in 1913, so the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Michigan State Police are still looking into whether it was legally owned.
MSP is investigating the shooting, which is standard procedure.
Blocker said there is dashcam video from the officers’ cruisers and that his department will turn that over to the state police. Blocker said he would also eventually release that video to the public.
BCPD officers don’t currently wear body cameras, but Blocker is asking for them and the city commission will discuss the matter Tuesday night. He said the updated system would have also made the video available much more quickly and easily than through the current dashcam system.
“We would have had a lot more information, a lot more detail, a lot more clarity almost instantaneously,” Blocker said. “That alone would have helped us out.”
An internal investigation is also underway within BCPD and Blocker placed the two officers involved on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of MSP’s investigation. That’s also standard procedure. Blocker said that based on what he had seen as of Tuesday afternoon, the officers had acted professionally.
MSP Detective 1st Lt. Chuck Christensen said the agency has invested four officer-involved shootings in Calhoun County so far this year, including the one Tuesday morning.