Benton Harbor community reacts to death of man shot by police

Posted at 8:01 PM, Oct 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-18 22:26:28-04

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Antwon Johnson made sure no one stepped on the spot where his brother Darius Wimberly died. He blocked the street off with his car and even had friends guard the spot.

Johnson's brother was shot and killed by police early on Tuesday morning.

“He’s a good guy,” said Johnson taking long breaths between each thought. “He was a good guy.”

Dozens of people in the neighborhood have questions and are trying to make sense of what happened to they man they considered family and called “Karate.”

“He love the kids,” said Johnson. “In his spare time he helped kids learn Karate, showing moves right out here at this park.”

Benton Harbor Police Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis said officers were called to a home on Pavone Street just after 2 a.m.  A 911 caller reported a man holding another person at gunpoint.  First responders found everyone in the home to be okay, but during the investigation they say they heard several gunshots.  Police say the man firing the gun was Wimberly, but they were unclear of his intended target.

“Officers felt as if they were being shot at,” said McGinnis. “One officer described it as having a bullet whiz by his head.”

Officers returned fire eventually hitting and killing Wimberly.

Friends and family say they question the account given by police to the media today.

“As far as him shooting at the police, nothing will ever make me believe that,” said Canvas Smith, a friend of Wimberly. “The whole investigation of it, it doesn’t sound right.”

Smith said she doesn't believe Wimberly fired shots at the police, saying it didn't fit the demeanor of the man she knew.  They accuse police of leaving his body in the street and the crime scene for residents to clean up.

“Did he shoot back? Did he try to shoot one of them? And if he was shooting at them, why was he the only one that got shot? If he was trying to shoot and kill somebody, why was he the only one that got shot?” said Smith. “No other officer was hurt.”

McGinnis said the officer involved in this shooting is now on paid administrative leave, which is typical in an investigation like this. Johnson said Tuesday’s shooting “hit close to home" and expressed concern over tension between officers and civilians in other parts of the country.

Neighbors say Pavone Street is a noted high-crime area and say that Wimberly had turned his life around after several run-ins with law enforcement.

“He was great guy and he loved everyone,” said Johnson. "And when everything comes out, we’ll get justice.”