A prosecutor in Michigan this week said officers were justified when they opened fire and killed a man who pulled a gun on them in Grand Rapids early last month.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said body camera footage played a key role in showing the events leading up to the shooting.
“There was no indication there was going to be trouble there … absolutely no indication he was going to get violent,” said Becker.
It all started around 12:30 p.m. on May 3 when officers came upon 18-year-old Malik Carey, who was sitting in the backseat of a car. Officers Benjamin Hawkins and Tony Gamez approached the vehicle. Hawkins asked for Carey’s name, but he refused to comply.
Earlier that day, a probation officer issued an advisory to police letting them know Carey had violated the terms of his probation. The advisory included a warning to officers — in 2015, Carey fired a gun into a car full of people.
Eventually, he gave a false name, identifying himself as Willie Walton III. Still, Officer Hawkins engaged in a polite exchange with him about his dreadlocks.
“How often do you, like, shampoo your hair?” asked Hawkins.
“I don’t really shampoo it that much, because then it thins. And I don’t want my hair to fall out,” said Carey.
Officer David Lilly showed up, and Hawkins went to his patrol car to look at the notice from the probation officer. He returned to the vehicle to arrest Carey as a probation absconder.
“He ain’t got no search warrant, you can’t go in the car,” said a bystander as Hawkins unlocked the car door to place the arrest.
“That’s TV, not reality. I’m sorry,” said Lilly.
Hawkins opened the door and told Carey to put his hands on top of his head. “For what?” he asked. Seconds later, Carey pulled a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver from his waistband.
“Gun, gun, gun gun,” yelled Hawkins, as Carey fired four rounds. Hawkins ran backward and fell, and Lilly, who was positioned on the other side of the vehicle, was able to administer his stun gun on Carey through an open window.
All three officers’ weapons were holstered when Carey started shooting. The officers returned fire, and Carey got out of the car and started running away, firing at least one more time at officers. State police determined that Hawkins fired 11 shots and Gamez fired 7. Lilly didn’t fire his weapon.
As Carey laid in a yard near the car where the incident began, police held back, waiting until they could confirm that he was no longer a threat. He was still near his gun, and was moving as officers yelled at him to show his hands.
Carey was hit once in the head, and once in the arm. He was eventually taken to the hospital, where he died.
“Mr. Carey was the person who initiated the violence,” Becker said. “He drew his gun, pointed his gun, and fired his gun at least four times before any police officer could even draw their firearm. This was a classic case of ‘a sudden, fierce and violent attack.'”
Becker said the officers were justified in trying to arrest Carey, and were justified in shooting him. All three officers are on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.