WEST MICHIGAN — We have seen 10 officer-involved shootings so far this year, with the most recent happening early Monday at a gas station in Comstock Township.
A deputy with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office responded just before 3 a.m. to a report of a man at a gas station. When he arrived on scene, he found a single man walking around the parking lot with a knife in his hand.
In a body-worn camera video that the sheriff's office released Monday afternoon, the deputy is heard asking the man to drop the knife and to stop advancing toward him, as the man continues lunging in his direction.
Eventually the officer fires one shot and the man falls. He would later die of his injuries.
This is the 10th officer-involved shooting that has happened in West Michigan since the start of 2021.
2021 Officer Involved Shootings in West Michigan
- Feb. 18 — Paw Paw, Home Invasion Suspect Shot
- May 21 — Kalamazoo, 47-year-old Man with Gun Shot
- May 22 — Beaver Twp, 63-Year-Old Man Shot
- June 21 — Hamilton, 31-Year-Old Shot After Break & Enter Call
- June 29 — Kentwood, Man with Gun Shot
- July 26 — Gobles, 39-Year-Old Man Shot After Injuring K9
- Aug. 14 — Climax Twp, Suspect Shot after Killing Kalamazoo Co Dep. Ryan Proxmire
- Sept. 1 — Battle Creek, Man Shot on South Ave
- Sept. 30 — Niles Twp, 28-Year-Old Man with a Knife Shot
- Oct. 4 — Galesburg, Man with a Knife Shot at Gas Station
“I would think from the public's perspective, the first thing [they feel] is sense of distrust in the law enforcement, which also mirrors then a distrust of the criminal justice system,” said Anthony Flores, a professor at WMU-Cooley Law, who also works at the Michigan State Police Academy.
Particularly in the last year or so, cases of officer-involved shootings are tough to process within the public sphere.
"These are extremely hard cases," Flores told FOX 17 Tuesday afternoon.
"From the very get-go, you know that there's going to be perceptions from those not involved, which can filter into the case and make the case something different than it should be.”
He says the public has become skeptical of the notion that any law enforcement agency could properly investigate another law enforcement agency for allegations of wrongdoing.
“There's an instant thought that that law enforcement is going to be investigating law enforcement, and that the case is going to be turned over to a prosecutor who's going to review law enforcement's work... and there's distrust in there,” Flores said.
“To make that process cleaner, or to make it more transparent, you get an outside investigating agency inside to investigate.”
Michigan State Police are investigating the officer-involved shooting that happened Monday at the Comstock Township gas station.
Flores says these sorts of incidents can not just affect public trust in policing but also have a significant impact on the officers involved.
“Obviously, there's a morale problem instantly when you believe that you're being investigated; all your work is going to be critiqued and flyspecked by somebody else,” he explained Monday.
“I would think that what it does is, it changes a mindset as an officer, because we live in a world of cameras now, and everybody has a cell phone camera, and you have to embrace that understanding that everything you do well will be caught also.”
Michigan's annual crime report tracks assaults on officers — which went from 1,088 incidents in 2019 up to 1,244 in 2020.
The only agency in the the state that publicly reports the number of officers that fired shots at perpetrators is Detroit. But Flores says that our criminal justice system is set up to hold everyone accountable when they commit a crime, regardless of who they are, or what job they have.
“When law enforcement does something that they shouldn't do, they should be treated like every other defendant, every other civilian. It's just one more criminal act,” Flores said.
“If all of it is done with an investigatory objectiveness that treats all cases the same, then the result should be the same — this case should not go to trial, this shouldn't be a charge because the shooting was justified... or, this is a criminal act, and this person should be held accountable for their conduct, so, they should go in front of 12 jurors to face what anybody would face.”