KENTWOOD, Mich. — Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says a Kentwood police officer was justified in his use of deadly force during an incident back in October.
Police responded about 10:20 p.m. on Oct. 24 to a call of a man in home who had stabbed another man in the back of the home and was still armed with a knife.
Authorities say that as Kentwood Officer Tyler Smith and Officer Wendy Colin were responding to the scene, Smith prepared his less-lethal shotgun, which shoots out super sock bean bag rounds.
Smith told investigators he planned to have a long-range, less lethal option because of the potential of facing an edged weapon.
At the scene, Smith says he saw two men struggling over a large butcher knife. A Black man pushed an older white man, later identified as Kim Ropp, into a cabinet.
Dispatch had informed police that the person with the knife who had done the stabbing was an older white man and, seeing the knife, Smith shot Ropp with two rounds from his less-lethal gun.
Body camera footage showed the two rounds hit Ropp with little effect.
Smith then fired a third round, hitting the Black man and knocking him to the ground. Ropp was then standing there in the kitchen with the knife, police said.
Ropp was told to drop his knife but did not do so.
“Kim Ropp looked at me and raised the knife,” Smith wrote in his report. “Fearing I was about to be stabbed, I aimed my service pistol at Kim Ropp’s upper body by his right shoulder and fired three to four shots at the targeted area.”
Becker says Smith’s statement was corroborated by body camera footage.
Three of the bullets hit Ropp in the right ride of his chest, hitting his heart, lung and liver. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Becker’s opinion says a police officer “has a duty and responsibility to protect the citizens of his/her community and therefore has the right to use appropriate force in defense of the general public.”
Smith almost indicated in his report that Ropp had a “thousand-yard stare,” which police training indicates is consistent with someone emotionally detached from reality.
That description was also consistent with that of other witnesses, according to the report, who described an unprovoked attack on them by Ropp and led to them calling police.
“He had the devil in his eyes,” one person in the home said.
Ropp came out of his room armed with a knife, apparently thinking others were talking about him. Witnesses also told police Ropp had been drunk at the time of the attack and no one had been talking about him.
An autopsy report showed Ropp’s blood alcohol level was at 290 mg/dl, which converts to a .29 if it were a breath test.
“Given the small distance between Mr. Ropp, Officer Smith and the other civilians in the home, there was an imminent threat of deadly force posed by Mr. Ropp,” Becker wrote in his opinion. “Officer Smith justifiably met that threat with deadly force when he decided to fire his weapon to stop him. As the law states, a police officer has a duty and responsibility to protect the citizens of their community and use appropriate force in defense of the general public. Officer Smith used appropriate force to protect himself and others in the home.”
Read Becker’s full opinion here: