BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — A man was killed and two officers were injured after they exchanged gunfire outside a Benton Harbor house Thursday night.
During a Friday morning press conference, the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety released details and body camera footage of the shooting.
While on patrol around 11:15 p.m., Sgt. Reginald Gee saw 32-year-old Dustin Levell Saffell in a red car at a home on Highland Avenue between Winan and McCord streets.
“There were outstanding warrants for his arrest. A felony warrant for home invasion (in the) first degree and unlawful imprisonment out of our department, as well as resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding fourth degree out of Michigan State Police. I think there is a domestic violence case with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office with an unserved (personal protection order),” Daniel McGinnis, director of the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety, said.
There was also an officer safety warning in Saffell’s file, McGinnis said.
Once a second officer, Blake Kinzler, arrived for backup, they approached the vehicle. While still several yards away, Saffell exited the vehicle.
“It’s very quick. You can see when he gets out, the gun’s in his hand,” McGinnis said.
Gee also pulled his gun. Before any words could be exchanged, Saffell began shooting at the officers, police say.
In body camera video you can hear one of the officers shouting, “Shots fired.” The initial exchange of gunfire lasted about 10 seconds.
“(Gee) was able to maintain his composure, returned fire, tried to get to cover, in doing so hitting the suspect, where he ultimately died from his wounds,” McGinnis said.
Saffell was shot and killed.
The two officers were also hit by gunfire.
“I’m hit,” Gee shouts in the video.
“Officer down, officer down,” a dispatcher can be heard saying in the video before calling for backup.
“He’s still up,” Gee reported of Saffell.
After the second round of gunfire, Kinzler can be heard reporting over the radio, “I’m hit, I’m hit.”
In all, police say, 15 rounds were fired.
In his bodycam video, Gee can be seen taking cover behind some cases of water bottles outside a nearby house. He went to the front door and knocked, saying, “Police, police.”
“I got one in the leg, man,” Gee reported over his radio as he waited for the people to answer the door. “Open the door. Police!” he can be heard saying.
A woman then answered the the door. “I was calling. You shot? Officer Gee is shot!” the woman can be heard telling someone, apparently on the phone.
More units started arriving at the scene only about a minute and a half after shots were first fired.
“Have medics step up. We’ve got two officers hit,” Gee said over his radio after more officers started arriving.
Gee, a six-year veteran of the force, was hit in the chest and the leg. His bulletproof vest stopped the shot to his torso. Backup officers applied a tourniquet to his leg. He was taken to the hospital and has had surgery. McGinnis said that he was in stable condition Friday morning.
“He’s doing fine. They’re going to observe him for a couple more days before he’s released,” McGinnis said.
Gee is also a combat veteran who served in the U.S. Marines.
Kinzler, who has been with Benton Harbor DPS for about 3.5 years, was shot three times when he went to assist Gee: twice in the midsection, which was blocked by his belt, and once in the leg, a wound that McGinnis described as “superficial.” Kinzler has been released from the hospital.
“We at this point are unsure why (Saffell) decided, after all the times he’s ran and fled and kind of made a game of it, he decided to shoot it out this time,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis said that Saffell had an extended magazine that he used to shoot at the officers. A video previously posted on Saffell’s social media showed him with firearms and extended magazines. McGinnis described the extended magazine as “the size of a small club” and said that “these is what we have out here on the streets right now.”
The video shared also showed him wearing a balaklava — cold weather gear that covers most of his face. He was wearing one in the social media video with the magazine and also when the shooting happened.
Michigan State Police said they are investigating. It’s standard procedure for agencies to bring in MSP or another third party to look into a shooting involving an officer. An administrative review is also underway.