KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Questions were answered in a press conference on Thursday by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) about a deadly standoff earlier this week.
Officials presented a timeline of the 16-hour standoff along with why a home was demolished in the process.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley said the actions of 35-year-old Alex Rawls from days prior ultimately resulted into what happened during the standoff.
It all started on Oct. 24, when police said Rawls assaulted his ex-girlfriend, resulting in significant injuries and threats to kill her.
Days later on Nov. 1, KDPS said Rawls shot his ex-girlfriend's sister five times and then shot into her home an additional 17 times. Bronson Hospital was reportedly put on lockdown after Rawls threatened to shoot the victim, the family and officers.
By Nov. 3, the Kalamazoo County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney issued multiple felony warrants, including assault with intent to murder, two counts of felony firearm and two counts of felony possession of a firearm. On Nov. 5, an additional felony warrant was issued for a third domestic violence offense.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety investigators discovered he was staying at a home on the 1500 block of Washington Avenue on Nov. 8. The tenant told them he was friends with her boyfriend and had been staying there since Nov. 4.
Officers said they arrived to the home on Washington Avenue on Monday around 10:45 a.m. and tried to make contact with Rawls. After announcements over a PA, four people exited the home, but Rawls remained inside.
Between 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., KDPS's trained negotiators worked to convince Rawls to exit the home. Rawls decided not to surrender despite negotiations continuing with family members.
Around 11:56 a.m., Rawls shot several rounds from an assault rifle at officers. One officer was injured during that time. Police said the officers "pinned down by gunfire" were rescued by SWAT members using an armored vehicle.
KDPS Chief Coakley said from 2:35 p.m. to 6:10 p.m., officers deployed around 50 nonlethal agents into the residence.
By this time, and due to the safety of officers, they decided the best tactic to keep everyone safe was "porting." Chief Coakley said it's a method that has been used by the department before.
"This was necessary because attempting to enter the home was unlikely to result in the death of law enforcement officers. The tactic of porting is opening up doors, windows and walls to allow officers to determine the location of the suspect without going inside," said Chief Coakley.
The owner of the home, Gary Apps, said he got a call from police around 2 p.m. on Monday about the situation.
"They just said, 'Come on over. We have a situation at your home; would you please come over and draw a map for—?' I think they said, 'for our assault team' or 'for our SWAT team if necessary,'" said the homeowner Gary Apps. "They were maybe limited for their options, but I've never seen a house torn down for this kind of a situation before, so it's, it's a little shocking."
The porting of exterior walls of the home was taken down between 6:35 p.m. and 9:38 p.m. Closer to 9:38 p.m., Rawls continued to fire more shots at officers.
"I will not send my officers into a hell of gunfire. While it's unfortunate the damage that was caused to the home, we prioritize lives before property. Property is always secondary to human life," said Chief Coakley.
Until 2:53 a.m., negotiations continued, including third-party interventions. KDPS said nonlethal agents and porting continued.
During this time, officers were able to watch Rawls from a hole in the roof using drone technology.
Rawls continued firing the assault rifle at officers, and officers continued to return fire, according to Chief Coakley.
Around 3 a.m., Rawls died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the standoff ended.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Office of Community Affairs contacted family and neighbors on Tuesday late morning into early afternoon.
The investigation was turned over to Michigan State Police.
KDPS said gunfire did damage their equipment. The one officer who was injured was treated and has been released from the hospital.
As for the tenants who were displaced, the city of Kalamazoo said it is working to find a place for them to stay and will be paying for it. The city also said it will be helping with costs that have arisen due to the loss of valuables.
KDPS said the homeowner will also be paid fair market value for his home that was demolished during the standoff.