GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kentwood police officer who shot and killed a suspect armed with a knife in April will not face charges.
In a 15-page news release, Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Forsyth says in part that Officer Darrin Cline acted in defense of his fellow officer.
Forsyth says that in order to find criminal misconduct on the part of Officer Cline, he would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not in fear for the safety of another officer when he shot Lamont Gulley, 43, on April 8.
“He doesn’t have to prove that when he shot him he was concerned about the dog handler. I have to prove that he wasn’t concerned about the dog handler at all,” Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8 while explaining his decision. “It’s an impossible standard.”
Forsyth concludes by saying the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office will not file charges against Officer Cline in the fatal shooting.
Officer Cline shot and killed Gulley while attempting to subdue him shortly after the stabbing that killed Gulley’s wife Casey Kempker, 41.
WARNING: Video below contains graphic content. The video released by the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office shows the officer involved shooting of Lamont Gulley and the immediate aftermath that shows a dog dragging Gulley away from his weapon. The prosecutor’s office used the audio from an officer’s body cam under the video from a dash cam because the body cam better showcases the sounds of what happened at the scene. Viewer discretion is advised.
Forsyth said he was concerned about the response the public might have to the video that shows the suspect being shot after he was on the ground.
The video shows Gulley on the ground, surrounded by officers when the shooting takes place, the sources said. A police dog was on top of Gulley and he was flailing his knife near the animal when a Kentwood officer opened fire.
Gulley died shortly after the shooting.
Forsyth said in his release that it’s possible to argue that Officer Cline’s main focus was the welfare of the K-9, but even so his concern for the dog does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not concerned for his fellow officer’s safety as well.
In a Tuesday statement, Kentwood Police Chief Tom Hillen said his officers “reacted bravely in the face of danger” and “did a tremendous job in trying to de-escalate the situation and achieve a different outcome using less-than-lethal force.”
He said Gulley was given multiple chances to surrender, but “but ultimately, he chose not to do so.”
Hillen said the use of deadly force was “the only option left to prevent further violence and protect our community.”
In preparation for the release of the prosecutor’s findings and video, officers in Grand Rapids have been alerted about a potential response from the public.
Kent County officials also met with leaders in the black community to review the case details and show them the video, Forsyth said.
Gulley’s family said they saw the video of his death once it was released to the public.
“Me and my family as well all feel that something different could have been done. In the video when he was tased he dropped to the ground and then the dog was released and attacked him,” Kristina Gulley, Lamont’s daughter said in a written statement. “The dog should have never been released as soon as he hit the ground… I just think the words from the prosecutor and police and the video do not match. We need Justice because the way that went was not necessary. Again something else could have been done.”
Forsyth said he can’t question the work of the officer, adding that the police showed restraint at other times where deadly force would have been justifiable.
“I can’t fault him for what he did,” Forsyth said.
Chief Hillen’s complete statement:
“We appreciate the thorough investigation of Bill Forsyth, his team and the Kent County Sheriff Office. As members of the Kentwood Police Department, we are sworn to protect and preserve our community. This is a duty we all take very seriously – and one that we strive to fulfill each and every day we put on a uniform.
“The officers who responded to that 911 call reacted bravely in the face of danger. I feel they did a tremendous job in trying to de-escalate the situation and achieve a different outcome using less-than-lethal force. Throughout this entire encounter, Mr. Gulley was given multiple options to drop his knife and turn himself in. As Mr. Forsyth affirmed, Mr. Gulley had the opportunity on multiple occasions to surrender – but ultimately, he chose not to do so.
“Using lethal force is never an easy option for a police officer, nor is it an option to be taken lightly. In this case, though, it was the only option left to prevent further violence and protect our community. We are relieved that no additional residents in our community were injured during the chase. As we saw with the Rodrick Dantzler murder-hostage situation a few years ago, this could have had a far different outcome.
“We extend our thoughts and prayers to the family of Casey Kempker, who are still grieving her loss and are left to raise a young son who will never know his mother. We truly appreciate the support we have received from the community.”
A Tuesday statement from Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley:
“As the Mayor of Kentwood, I am glad that the investigation of Mr. Forsyth has cleared our officers of any wrongdoing. As we all know, there is evil in this world. Individuals open themselves up to evil and perform evil acts. It is the duty of our police officers to protect the innocent from these individuals, which they did so bravely the night of April 8, 2016.
“I wish that Mr. Gulley, who was so broken and filled with anger, had not stabbed his wife 15 times, then turned the knife on himself. I wish that a 7-year-old boy would still have his mom. Lastly, I wish that Mr. Gulley, in the end, would have simply dropped the knife.
“Please join me in praying daily for the safety of all those who call Kentwood their home and those who serve our community.”