A suburban Grand Rapids police officer will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Lamont Gulley, the Kent County prosecutor’s office announced Tuesday.
In a 15-page report released along with disturbing audio and video footage, Prosecuting Attorney Bill Forsyth says “a review of the facts, and an application of the law to those facts” indicates that “the death was a result of an honest and reasonable belief in the need to act in defense of Officer Hoornstra.”
WARNING: The following video, released this week by the Kent County prosecutor's office, contains audio and video footage that is graphic and disturbing.
A domestic violence call, a stabbing, and police pursue their suspect on foot
On April 8, Kentwood police were dispatched to a domestic violence call after a woman said her mother asked her to call 911. She said her mother’s husband “is threatening her … when he starts acting weird and crazy…he likes to threaten her life.”
According to the prosecutor’s report, officers found 41-year-old Casey Kempker laying in the living room, “not moving and…covered in blood.” Kempker’s 7-year-old son was sitting just a few feet away “unharmed.”
Police pursued Lamont Gulley on foot, and reported to dispatch that Gulley was acting erratically. “I have a gun, you better shoot me,” he said several times, according to the prosecutor's report; but police say they were close enough to see he was carrying only a knife and a cell phone.
Officer Darrin Cline warned Gulley to drop the knife, or he would be tased. When Gulley didn’t drop the knife, Cline deployed his Taser, but it didn’t work “due, in part, to the heavy clothing that Mr. Gulley was wearing,” the report says.
The officer-involved shooting
Eventually, officers surrounded Gulley and again told him to drop the knife. Another officer deployed his Taser, and Gulley dropped to the ground. Officer Tim Hoornstra released his police dog, Aero, to apprehend Gulley and remove his knife.
Gulley, the report says, began stabbing the police dog as he lay on the icy ground, with Hoornstra a few feet away. That’s when Officer Cline shot Gulley, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital. According to the prosecutor’s report, Gulley also had deep, self-inflicted knife wounds on his wrists and neck, that possibly indicate he was trying to commit suicide.
“In order to use deadly force to protect Officer Hoornstra, Officer Cline must have honestly and reasonably believed that Officer Hoornstra was in danger of being killed or seriously injured,” the prosecutor’s report says.
While “it is possible to argue that Officer Cline’s sole focus was the welfare of the K-9,” the report says, that “does not demonstrate a lack of concern for Officer Hoornstra. The two are not mutually exclusive.”
Both the Kentwood police chief and Kentwood’s mayor released statements of support for the prosecutor’s decision.
“Using lethal force is never an easy option for a police officer, nor is it an option to be taken lightly,” said Police Chief Thomas Hillen in a statement. “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 the Mayor of Kentwood, I am glad that the investigation of Mr. Forsyth has cleared our officers of any wrongdoing,” says Mayor Stephen Kepley, also via a statement. “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.”
Michigan Radio reached out to Kristina Gulley, a woman who identified herself on Facebook as Lamont Gulley’s daughter.
Kristina Gulley posted the following on Facebook Tuesday, after the prosecutor’s office released footage from police dashboard and body cameras showing the shooting of Lamont Gulley:
“Tears fall from my eyes and anger arises in me from this video! Bs total bs! A knife verses a gun! The last tazer made him hit the ground! Smh something else could have been done!! Their words and that video does not match. I really need some prayers today that all the anger inside of me be relieved!”
Ms. Gulley did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
The Kentwood Police department confirmed Tuesday that this is the department's fourth officer-involved in the last 18 months.
However, the department says that in one of those incidents – in which an armed suspect was killed June 13 - the suspect died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.