KENTWOOD, Mich. — A Kentwood police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding domestic violence suspect will not face any charges, the county prosecutor announced Tuesday.
Lamont Gulley was being pursued by police after Casey Kempker, 41, was found dead from stab wounds at the Pheasant Ridge Apartments on April 8. The prosecutor determined that Gulley was threatening officers with a knife and was not responding to officers when ordered to drop the weapon.
The knife was believed to be the weapon used to kill Kempker who had also told police Gulley had a gun. Investigators found Kempker had been stabbed 15 times. Officers had used a taser on Gulley, which had knocked him down, but did not incapacitate him.
Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Forsyth concluded, in part, that Officer Darrin Cline acted in defense of his fellow officer, according to a 15-page release issued Tuesday.
WARNING: Above video might be disturbing to some. Viewer discretion is advised. The Kent County Prosecutor's Office released the video and included audio from an officer's body camera.
The prosecutor determined Officer Darrin Cline shot Gulley to protect another officer and a K-9 as Gulley became more aggressive while wielding a knife.
Relatives of Kempker told FOX 17 shortly after the incident that she had been stabbed to death in front of her son, who has autism. Kepmker's daughter said her mother texted her to 'call 911' shortly before her death.
Authorities released video of the deadly officer-involved shooting. Forsyth said, while the video shows Gulley being shot, it doesn't tell the entire story without the context of what transpired prior.
“You don’t know, from looking at the video, that the man stabbed his wife 15 times in front of her 7-year-old son," Forsyth said. "You don’t know they chased him on foot, that they repeatedly told him to drop his knife and he kept saying it’s a gun, ‘just go ahead and shoot me.’”
Officers tracked Gulley by following his footprints in the fresh snow following the stabbing. Upon surrounding him, officers can be heard on video repeatedly yelling to Gulley to drop his knife. He refused, repeatedly saying the knife was a gun while telling officers to shoot him.
Once shot, one video shows the K-9 dragging Gulley out of the frame. Officers can be heard on camera saying it was to separate Gulley from the knife, which was laying on the ground underneath him. Despite officers seeing Gulley swing his knife toward the K-9, the dog was not injured.
“If someone chooses to look at this only through the video, I’m sure you would be upset; the guy’s laying on the ground, the dog drags him away," Forsyth said "But you need to put the video in context. He’s acting in defense of the dog handler.”
Including Gulley's death, Kentwood police officer have been involved in the shooting death of a suspect four times in just 18 months. It's something Forsyth chalks up to "nothing more than an anomaly."
“I don’t view that as an indictment of the entire police department by any stretch," Forsyth said.
A Kentwood police officer was involved in the Jan. 29, 2015, shooting of Alan James, who during a drunken rampage wounded a Wyoming police officer. The officer involved was never named publicly and was later cleared.
Tim Arnold, 47, was shot and killed by Kentwood officer Jonathon Carter on Oct. 21, 2015 in a hallway at an apartment building. Arnold was armed with a handgun and pointed it at Officer Carter before pulling the trigger but the gun never fired. Carter fired three rounds, hitting Arnold. Later thought to be a "suicide by cop," the officer's actions were ruled justified.
On Jun 13, 2016, Frank Kelley, 38, was shot and killed after police say he robbed a Wyoming credit union. A Kentwood officer said he shot Kelley when Kelley pointed a gun at him. But a medical examiner later ruled the deadly shot was self-inflicted.
Kentwood's police chief Tom Hillen issued the following statement saying the appreciated the 'thoroughness' of the investigation:
The officers who responded to that 911 call reacted bravely in the face of danger. I feel they did a tremendous job in trying to de-escalate the situation and achieve a different outcome using less-than-lethal force. Throughout this entire encounter, Mr. Gulley was given multiple options to drop his knife and turn himself in. As Mr. Forsyth affirmed, Mr. Gulley had the opportunity on multiple occasions to surrender – but ultimately, he chose not to do so. Using lethal force is never an easy option for a police officer, nor is it an option to be taken lightly.
In this case, though, it was the only option left to prevent further violence and protect our community. We are relieved that no additional residents in our community were injured during the chase. As we saw with the Rodrick Dantzler murder-hostage situation a few years ago, this could have had a far different outcome.
We extend our thoughts and prayers to the family of Casey Kempker, who are still grieving her loss and are left to raise a young son who will never know his mother. We truly appreciate the support we have received from the community.
Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley issued the following statement in wake of the prosecutor's findings:
I am glad that the investigation of Mr. Forsyth has cleared our officers of any wrongdoing. As we all know, there is evil in this world. Individuals open themselves up to evil and perform evil acts. It is the duty of our police officers to protect the innocent from these individuals, which they did so bravely the night of April 8, 2016.
I wish that Mr. Gulley, who was so broken and filled with anger, had not stabbed his wife 15 times, then turned the knife on himself. I wish that a 7-year-old boy would still have his mom. Lastly, I wish that Mr. Gulley, in the end, would have simply dropped the knife.
Please join me in praying daily for the safety of all those who call Kentwood their home and those who serve our community.
In light of the prosecutor's ruling, Gulley's daughter said something else should have been done. "A knife verses a gun," she posted to Facebook. "Their words and that video do not match."