Prosecutor clears police in Ypsilanti shooting (UPDATE3)

February 9, 2007 by  
Filed under News

(February 7, 2007) The Washtenaw County Prosecutor has cleared two police officers in a recent shooting death of a drug suspect in Ypsilanti. Police Officers that are part of the LAWNET task force, were conducting an undercover drug buy on North Huron in Ypsilanti when, during the arrest of the two suspects, one suspect drove his car towards an officer while the second suspect, fled on foot. Police shot at the driver apparently injuring him. Both subjects then fled on foot. The driver was hit by an undercover police car. The police chased the passenger and he was shot and killed by police on Arcade Street.

The County Prosecutor, in a press release dated February 6, 2007, said that the shooting was justified under Michigan law. The press release contradicted earlier media reports as well as the Michigan State Police press release that was sent out the day after the shooting.

One local paper reported that the second suspect, was shot six times. The County Prosecutor stated the suspect was shot three times.

There is also a disagreement over the name of the subject. The State Police press release said the suspect killed in the shooting was David Antjuan Ware of Washtenaw County. The County Prosecutor said the passenger and second suspect was David Eugene Ware of Taylor, Michigan that was killed by police.

The County’s press release leaves more questions unanswered then answered. While the press release says that Michigan law permits an officer to use deadly force to stop a fleeing felon, it is unclear how a suspect is considered a felon if they haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime. Another question left unanswered, under Michigan law can a suspect be shot for fleeing if suspected of any felony, including a non-violent felony.

The press release claims that officers knew the suspect and knew that Ware had possessed firearms in the past.

If that is the case, was it appropriate to shoot the suspect during a foot chase, in an uncontrolled environment of a residential street. If the officers did know Ware, could the officers have arrested Ware at a later date since they knew who he was before they shot him?

One of the questions asked by many neighbors in the Riverside Neighborhood Association was did Ware have or brandish a weapon? The press release made no mention if Ware possessed or threatened to use a weapon before he was shot.

Sources at the police department have confirmed that one of the officers involved in the shooting was Uriah Hamilton from the Ypsilanti Police Department. Hamilton is currently on loan to LAWNET.

According the County Prosecutor, two officers fired their weapons that evening. One officer, shot three times at the suspects vehicle. According to the press release, “Two shots penetrated the vehicle and one of those two shots appears to have grazed the driver, but did not cause serious injury.” The driver was then struck by a police vehicle. The driver was taken to an area hospital for treatment and then lodged at the County Jail.

The second suspect, Ware, was a passenger in the vehicle. Ware fled on foot and according the County Prosecutor two officers pursued Ware. Officers yelled at Ware, “Stop! Don’t make me shoot you.” Ware was shot three times, by Officer Hamilton.

Ypsilanti Police have confirmed that Hamilton is on paid administrative leave which is typical after an officer is involved in a shooting. Police declined to further comment on the shooting or Hamilton’s role in the shooting.

During the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, Ypsilanti Police Chief Harshberger told the mayor and council that he could not provide any further details on the shooting as he had been instructed by the County Prosecutor to make no statements.

One of the questions that remains unanswered is how many shots were fired by the second officer at Ware? The Prosecutor said Ware was shot three times but it is unknown if the second officer fired more than three times.

Now that the County Prosecutor has received the report from the Michigan State Police and has determined that shooting was justified, it remains to be seen what will happen at the City. Police Chief Matt Harshberger in an earlier interview had indicated that YPD would be conducting their own review of the incident once the Michigan State Police completed their investigation. Harshberger did not indicate when that investigation would be completed.

The City of Ypsilanti many years ago, as a result of previous police shootings, had developed guidelines for the appropriate use of deadly force. It is unclear if these guidelines are still used at YPD and if the YPD officer, while on loan to LAWNET, would even be subject to those guidelines.

The City and LAWNET officials are conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. (Wednesday, February 7th) at the Ypsilanti Senior Center. The meeting is open to the public.

If the Prosecutor’s gag order is still in effect, it is unclear whether LAWNET or the Ypsilanti Police will provide more details at tonight’s meeting or even respond to specific questions about the shooting.

Last updated: Feb 9, 2008 9:46 am
First reported: Feb 7, 2007 6:25 am

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