WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Two Wyoming officers who were put on administrative leave will not face charges for allegedly firing their guns during a domestic disturbance call last month.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker announced his decision Friday in connection to the June 13 incident at Timber Ridge Apartments on 44th Street SW near Byron Center Avenue.
Becker called the first shooting “not an unreasonable decision” and said the second shooting “was a mistake, but the law allows for a mistake in a turbulent decision like this.”
A man who only wanted to be identified as Jordan previously told 24 Hour News 8 his roommate, 27-year-old Cory Robinson, had a history of issues and had talked about seeing demons.
Jordan said Robinson had just asked a friend to bring over guns and ammunition, but that friend turned him down and called Jordan to warn him.
Jordan said officers’ arrival set off Robinson, who screamed at police “come and get me,” and tried to break through a bathroom door using a knife and shotgun to get him.
Becker said the investigation revealed the officers heard the distinct sound of someone “racking” or loading a weapon twice before they began heading back down the stairs. While retreating, Sgt. Jeremy Walter saw a rifle barrel that was being leveled at the officers and fired his weapon.
Becker said within 30 seconds after Walter fired, Officer Ben Hecksel also shot at a person escaping through a bedroom window. That person turned out to be Robinson’s roommate, who was holding his cellphone.
Becker said Hecksel was told by dispatchers the roommate was locked in the bathroom, and had been advised to stay in the bathroom, so he had no reason to believe the person escaping out the window may have been the roommate.
Becker said Hecksel thought the person escaping was Robinson and the object he was holding was a gun that Hecksel believed was pointed at Walter’s position. That’s when Hecksel fired.
Hecksel then heard from dispatchers that the roommate had left through the window after hearing Walter’s gunfire.
“If I’d stayed where I was like they told me to, he could have come right back upstairs and killed me,” Jordan said Friday after hearing about Becker’s decision. “How many guns do you know of that light up with a cell phone screen in the middle of the night? It’s not very mistakable.”
The roommate and Robinson were not hit or injured by any of the gunfire.
“Given the facts of this incident and how quickly they transpired, and the level of danger facing the responding officers, Officer Hecksel’s decision to discharge his firearm becomes more clear,” Becker wrote.
Becker added it was a mistake, but allowed by law when an officer thinks someone is in danger of being killed or seriously injured.
Jordan said Friday he did not think that there should be any criminal charges against the officers, but he believes there needs to be better communication and training.
“If somebody’s coming out a window, you should make sure you’re doing your best to identify who that is you’re shooting at before you shoot,” Jordan said. “It is a stressful situation and yes, it did happen quick, but I do believe in my heart I made the right decision to go out the window. It was my only decision.”
In an evening release, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety said there would be no discipline for the officers. It said they would get a refresher course in shooting and tactical decision making, which it said happens any time an officer returns from administrative leave. The department added that under “established procedure,” it would set up a board to review whether any changes in training or policies needed to be made.
Becker said he couldn’t elaborate further on the details of the case, since Robinson is charged with felonious assault, possessing a weapon with unlawful intent and malicious destruction of a building in connection to the incident.
Robinson is awaiting a forensic examination to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
The full release from Wyoming DPS:
“After reviewing the results of the Kent County Sheriff investigation and the findings of Prosecutor Becker, we are decided that the involved officers will not face disciplinary measures for their actions taken the night of June 13. As explained, Sgt. Walter’s reactions to actual threats were completely aligned with what professional and current law-enforcement training and standards would indicate was required. While we now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that Officer Hecksel‘s interpretations of what was happening were inaccurate, they were made under the stress of a rapidly unfolding and life threatening emergency and were not unreasonable.
“As is our established procedure and is required by professional standards and best practices, we will convene a shooting review board to identify any issues relating to processes, equipment, training, policies, and procedures in a never ending effort to bring the highest level of police service, accountability, and transparency to the community we serve. Further, in the wake of any officer involved shooting, regardless of circumstances, officers returning from administrative leave undergo refresher training that includes fire arms accuracy, qualification, and tactical decision making.
“We are very thankful to the brave men and women of the Wyoming Dept. of Public Safety who willingly and deliberately put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect our community. We acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of what we ask of them. We are very grateful no one was hurt in this incident. We also thank the Kent County Sheriff Department and Prosecutor Becker for a thorough, professional, and objective investigation and review of this incident.”