Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker addressed the media, about 13 hours after an overnight shooting of a passenger by an officer, following a traffic stop.

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, an officer observed a Chevrolet Cruzer driving erratically,  stopping and backing up in the middle of the road, and making an illegal turn.  A preliminary investigation suggests that the car stopped in the Katie Plaza parking lot, on LaVista, just North of Columbia Avenue.

Chief Blocker said the driver, a 21 year old black male from Jackson was standing outside the vehicle and cooperating with the officer.   About a minute or two later, a second officer arrived and approached the car’s front passenger, an 18-year-old black male who is believed to live in Battle Creek, or possibly Jackson.  Chief Blocker said the passenger was cooperating at first.  The officer noticed a gun in his waistband and said he was going to remove the gun for safety.  The passenger raised his hands, and the officer reached for the gun.  Chief Blocker says the passenger then leaned forward, extended his arm, and reached for a second gun on the floor of the car.  Seeing the second gun, the officer fired two shots, wounding the passenger in the shoulder and the arm, although damage to the car indicates one bullet may have deflected inside the car first.

Chief Blocker says they think the men may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  He says blood samples were taken, but not tested yet, as they await warrants to do so.

Michigan State Police Lt. Chuck Christensen was at the press conference, as the MSP will be conducting the investigation into the incident.  The officers, both white, have each worked for at least six years in law enforcement.  They are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

State Police Lt. Chuck Christensen-TSM Photo
State Police Lt. Chuck Christensen-TSM Photo

Investigators have video cam footage from both police vehicles and are checking to see if any other cameras in the area might have caught the incident.   Chief Blocker was asked if body cams on the officers would have been useful.  “Body cams would have been incredibly helpful.  It would have been easier and quicker to get the footage, and would have provided a lot more detail and clarity.”   Battle Creek City Commissioners will be considering a proposal tonight (Tuesday)  to put body cams on officers and update vehicle cams.

The driver was arrested on a felony weapons charge.  The passenger was taken to a Kalamazoo hospital, where he is in stable condition.  He faces a felony weapons charge, and also was on probation for a retail fraud charge.  Chief Blocker said the department was familiar with the driver from past incidents, but not the passenger.

The gun in the passenger’s waistband was a 9mm pistol, stolen five years ago in Blackman Township.  The weapon on the floor, a Titan 25 semi-automatic, was fully loaded.   It was registered in 1992 to a man born in 1913.

“Our officers were calm and collected throughout the entire incident.  Everything was going fine until it all changed in an instant,” said Blocker.  “When that happens, officers have to rely on their training and that’s what they did.   Now we just wait for the State Police to conduct their investigation.”

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