Deputy ‘Justified’ in Barry County Man’s Killing
The following is a news release from the Barry County prosecutor following a deputy-involved shooting. Ralph Elliott was shot in his Dowling area home in February.
Date: March 28, 2013
Re: The February 9, 2013 Shooting of Ralph Oliver Elliott.
I would like to thank the Michigan State Police, Barry County Sheriff’ s Department for their cooperation in the investigation of this incident. I would like to commend D/F/ Lt. Charles Christiansen and D/Sgt. Terry Klotz and the rest of the
Michigan State Police for their hard work and dedication to the investigation. Lastly, I commend Barry County Central Dispatch for their dedication and patience during the often intense and lengthy communication during the incident.
On Saturday February 9, 2013 at 6: 19 p.m., Barry County Sheriff’ s Deputies responded to a domestic assault involving a firearm on Banfield Road in Dowling, Michigan. The suspect was Ralph Olive Elliott, the 41- year-old husband of Jackie
Elliott. On the night in question, Jackie Elliott had reported to Barry County Central Dispatch that her husband, Ralph Elliott was going to kill her and that he had a gun. Moments later, the neighbor reported that Mr. Elliott had shot himself
inside of his pickup truck and was slumped over the passenger seat. Jackie Elliott reported to police that earlier that evening that she had arrived home and found Mr. Elliott at his mother’ s home a few houses away. Mr. Elliott appeared
intoxicated and seemed preoccupied about whether Jackie was going to turn him into police. Mr. Elliott produced a gun and eventually gave it to Jackie. He then produced another gun, which he put to his head then down to his side, shooting
at the ground. Mr. Elliott stated that he was” done” and” can’ t do it” and he was” not going to jail”. Jackie Elliott was fearful and ran to her neighbor’ s house and called 911. Deputies arrived at the scene and discovered shortly thereafter that
Ralph Elliott had apparently shot himself inside of his pickup truck in the driveway of his mother’ s home. At approximately 6: 25 p.m. Ralph Elliott was seen getting out of his pickup truck and walking into his mother’ s home. At 6: 48 p.m.
Barry County Central Dispatch was able to make contact with Ralph Elliott by telephone. The dispatcher asked Mr. Elliott if he was alright, and whether he had a gun. During the telephone conversation, Ralph Elliott repeatedly told the
dispatcher that he wanted police to leave the property and that” it is not going to be pretty” and if they stay here” they are all going to die”. The dispatcher repeatedly asks Mr. Elliott if he has a gun and if so, to put the gun down and speak to
deputies. Mr. Elliott seemed to be emotional on the telephone, but well oriented to time and place, he was able to communicate coherently with the dispatcher. Several minutes into the call, Mr. Elliott stopped talking to the dispatcher. It was
later discovered that he had gone outside. Mr. Elliott was shot and killed as he confronted sheriff’s deputies a short time later. Barry County Sheriff’ s Deputies who were at the scene were interviewed by the Michigan State Police. Each deputy
gave a statement about their observations and actions at the scene. Deputies stationed themselves in various locations around the house and property. At approximately 7: 12 p.m. Ralph Elliot was seen exiting his mother’ s home. Mr. Elliott
began walking down the driveway; he was given several commands to” get down” and” show your hands”. Mr. Elliott continued to advance towards Deputy Volosky with his hand inside the front flap of his overalls. Deputy Volosky reported
that he is familiar with Mr. Elliott as he had investigated Mr. Elliott for domestic violence involving a handgun just a few months earlier. When he and other deputies arrived at the scene on February 9, 2013, they positioned themselves
around the property. Deputy Volosky reported that Deputy Kimbel stated that Mr. Elliott was exiting the rear of the house and was walking across the yard. Deputy Volosky approached the driveway of the residence and observed Mr. Elliott
walking across the driveway. Deputy Volosky gave several verbal commands for Elliot to” get down” and” put his hands up” but Elliott continued to advance and shouted” F— You!” Deputy Volosky observed Elliott’ s right
hand to be inside the front pocket of his outer garment, which from his training and experience would be capable of concealing a handgun. Believing there was an imminent threat of gunfire, Deputy Volosky shot at Elliott, who turned to the
left, bent slightly forward at the waist and curled his hands inward towards his chest. Deputy Volosky believed Elliott was struck and ceased fire. Mr. Elliott then placed his hands above his head and began advancing again. He was given
several more verbal commands to get to the ground. In fact, radio traffic recordings revealed that in the seconds before the shooting, deputies gave over 19 commands for Elliott to `get down” and” show your hands”. When Elliott approached,
Deputy Volosky attempted to kick the common peroneal nerve area of his right leg, which had no effect on Elliott. Fearing that Elliott would have time to access a weapon, Volosky did not lower his rifle or attempt to place Elliott in custody by
hand. Volosky then requested that Deputy Herson taser Elliott, the probes from the taser struck Mr. Elliott but did not stop him; Mr. Elliott swatted towards the taser probes. Elliott then turned his right hand inward and downward, with his
palm facing his body and his fingers pointing towards the ground. He then reached quickly with the same hand behind the front flap of his bib overalls. Deputy Volosky at this point considered his previous contacts with Elliott, as well as
Elliott’ s disregard of police commands, his earlier statement that” it wasn’ t going to be pretty”, and his knowledge that Elliott had already shot himself with a handgun. Believing that Elliott was reaching for his handgun and that he and other
officers were in imminent danger of being shot, Volosky fired two times from about 4-6 feet striking Elliott. Ralph Elliott was later pronounced dead. The investigation later revealed that there were a total of 5 rounds fired from Volosky’ s rifle.
Michigan State Police conducted several searches of the residence where the incident took place. They located a holster in the kitchen of the residence but were not able to locate the handgun Mr. Elliott had used to shoot himself.
An autopsy was performed by Dr. Joyce de Jong, a forensic pathologist at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Elliott suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound on his face/ mouth. He died of a gunshot wound to his
abdomen. The manner of death is classified as homicide because” the injury was caused by a volitional action that was inflicted by another.” Toxicology results revealed that Mr. Elliott’ s blood alcohol content was . 16. LAW SELF-DEFENSE
Although the manner of the death of Ralph Elliott is considered a homicide, not all homicides are criminal. It is my opinion that Deputy Volosky was justified in his actions on February 9, 2013. In summary, Michigan law allows the use of
deadly force against another person if the person using the force honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or imminent great bodily harm to him or herself or another individual.
The purpose of this review is to determine whether the death of Ralph Oliver Elliott was a criminal act. It is my opinion, based on the law and the evidence, it was not a criminal act and that Deputy Volosky was justified in his actions on the
night of February 9, 2013. It is important to consider what Deputy Volosky knew and believed when he acted that evening. Deputy Volosky took several steps to avoid shooting Mr. Elliott, such as verbal commands, attempting to kick him, and
taser deployment. In recent months, Deputy Volosky was part of the investigation against Ralph Elliott for domestic violence involving a gun. In fact, Elliott was on probation for domestic violence during the present incident. Deputy Volosky
knew that Mr. Elliott had a handgun on February 9, and that he had already used the gun to shoot himself. Volosky was also aware that minutes earlier Mr. Elliot had stated during a telephone conversation with a dispatcher that” it isn’ t going
to be pretty”. Also, radio traffic recordings revealed that Deputy Volosky, along with other officers, shouted over 19 commands to Mr. Elliott to” get down” and” show your hands” in the seconds before the shooting. In addition, Deputy Volosky
was clear in his statement that he observed Mr. Elliott to quickly place his right hand in the front flap of his bib overalls just before the fatal shooting. The evidence clearly supports a conclusion and finding ofjustifiable homicide. Deputy
Volosky’ s actions were based on his honest and reasonable belief that he, the other officers, and people in the neighborhood were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.