GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Kent County prosecutor says an officer with the Grand Rapids Police Department will face a misdemeanor charge after police say he unintentionally fired his gun.
Officer Greg Bauer is charged with one count of careless discharge of a firearm causing property damage under $50.
The prosecutor made the announcement at a press conference Friday afternoon.
"It's careless," said Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker. "This is not intentional, this is not malicious. This was something that shouldn't have happened obviously, but it did and based on all the facts and circumstances that I reviewed, I felt there was a sufficient basis to file this careless discharge charge."
The officer-involved shooting happened on Dec. 9 when Daevionne Smith drove to his father’s house near Cass and Sycamore streets around 10:30 p.m. He parked his car and went inside. When he returned outside, GRPD had surrounded his car.
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Becker couldn't answer many factual questions that he says will be addressed in a separate internal investigation being carried out by Michigan State Police. As to whether or not Officer Bauer had his gun drawn, or why officers didn't confirm the license plate on the car before apprehending Smith - Becker couldn't say.
Stephen Grimm, Smith's attorney, spoke to FOX17 by phone Friday. He said he was left with questions after the announcement.
"The charge doesn’t explain why an officer had his gun out and pointed at an innocent, unarmed man," said Grimm.
In December, Grand Rapids Police Chief Payne called it an "unintentional accidental discharge." The bullet went in Smith’s direction but hit a building.
“This was a traumatic incident, especially for the subject that was the driver," Chief Payne said days after the incident. “I recognize that and empathize with him, that he was placed in this situation. It’s not a good experience for anyone. With that, we’re very fortunate no one was injured in that during this incident.”
Chief Payne added that Officer Bauer is a 20-year veteran of the force and was placed on leave while Michigan State Police conducted a criminal investigation, and the department conducted its own internal investigation.
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At Friday's press conference, Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker said he examined the definitions of "negligence" and "carelessness" under Michigan law when deciding to charge Officer Bauer.
According to Becker, prosecutors have to be able to show a defendant is guilty of at least ordinary negligence in the shooting of a gun. Becker says ordinary negligence means the person did not take reasonable care under the circumstances as they were at the time.
Responding to a question about why more serious incidences in the past, where citizens did get shot, Becker said the presence of danger made the actions more justifiable by the officer.
"The law is, you have the right to use deadly force in self-defense and that's what those charges very often hinge on," said Becker. "That wasn't here. This was not a self-defense act and that changed the analysis quite a bit."
Becker said there was a basis to file charges against Officer Bauer based on a review of the law and the facts in this case.
The city says GRPD has been cooperative with the investigation.
If found guilty, Bauer faces a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a fine of $100.
In response to the announcement, GRPD provided this statement:
GRPD has cooperated throughout the investigation and will continue to do so. We fully support a process of transparency and accountability in all policing matters. Please note, GRPD has an ongoing internal investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
With respect to any potential civil litigation, we have not received a claim at this juncture. If and when we do receive a suit, we will respond accordingly.