Michigan State Police are taking over the investigation of a Lansing Township police shooting. Few details have been confirmed regarding the Monday afternoon shooting, but what began as a routine traffic stop quickly spiraled into something more. This comes at a time when police are under increased scrutiny by the public and by the federal government for patterns of excessive force.
Chief Kay Hoffman of the Lansing Township police, said that the incident happened around 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. Police officers conducted a traffic stop on West Kalamazoo Street at the 2600 block. The series of events culminated in one man pronounced dead and two Lansing Township policemen being placed on paid administrative leave, which is the procedure for a police-involved shooting. The Detroit Free Press reported that at 1:33 p.m., an officer said over the radio that he was holding suspects at gunpoint. Seconds later, the officer was calling for an ambulance.
Hoffman was unable to provide the nature of the traffic stop, but stated there may have been one or two passengers in the car during the traffic stop. They have since been picked up by Michigan state police investigating the Lansing Township police shooting. According to Hoffman, one officer was conducting a routine stop of the vehicle and was later joined by a second officer. It was not known why back-up was requested, but reportedly it is customary for an officer in the area of a traffic stop to aid the first officer.
Hoffman said it was unclear what happened between the initial stop and the lethal force being used. Shots were apparently fired and the man was struck. He was taken to Sparrow Hospital, where he later died.
One of the officers involved in the shooting is a 15-year veteran with the Lansing Township police department. The second officer had been with the department for three years. The last occurrence of a police-involved shooting was almost 20 years ago, according to Hoffman. The officers involved have never been involved in a shooting before, she added.
When Hoffman received word of the shooting, she called in the Michigan state police to investigate. State police routinely investigate incidents where a policeman is killed or his weapon is discharged, and are currently investigating the death of Deputy Grant Whitaker of the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office. He died Sunday morning in a traffic accident.
Unknown at the moment is whether there was an exchange of gunfire or if shots were only fired by police. State police are interviewing the two alleged passengers in the vehicle. Hoffman refused to confirm the deceased’s name. No connection has been provided between the deceased and the two individuals in questioning.
As of 6 p.m. Monday evening, Michigan state police were unavailable for comment. Lansing Township police and Lansing police were on the outside of the police tape on West Kalamazoo Street while Michigan state police detectives and their mobile crime lab was in place on the inside of the tape. According to Hoffman, the deceased’s car did pull into a driveway, but she was unable to confirm the make and model of the car.
Tyrell Washington, friend of the deceased, said that he was driving the car in question when it was pulled over. According to Washington’s accounts, the deceased was attempting to show officers that he was carrying a firearm so they would not be alarmed when searching him, and that is when the officers shot him. Washington, 24, said that the deceased raised his hands in the air with the gun in one hand showing the officers the weapon.
Washington was detained by officers for interrogation and was later released. He arrived at Crystal Campbell’s house after 8 p.m. According to state records, Campbell is the registered owner of the vehicle Washington was driving. Washington answered a few questions from reporters before requesting that they leave.
Students at nearby Sexton High School were placed on lockdown, according to Robert Kolt, district spokesman. The all-clear was reportedly given around 2:22 p.m.
The shooting comes at a time when an intense, nation-wide conversation is being had over excessive force by police. Demonstrations have occurred around the country as well as in Lansing and East Lansing over police brutality. Recent deaths at the hand of police, including that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Eric Gardner in New York, has placed the nation on notice. A town hall meeting was scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Union Missionary Baptist Church to discuss the shooting.
According to Hoffman, the deceased was not African American, but the race of the passengers is unknown. More details will be available as state police continue their investigation into the shooting by Lansing Township Police.
By Stevenson Benoit
Detroit Free Press
Photo by Matt Katzenberger – Flickr License