Manslaughter Charges for Detroit Cop

ByJim Suhr

D E T R O I T, Sept. 28, 2000 -- A police officer lacked “legal excuse orjustification” to fatally shoot a garden rake-wielding man whocould not hear or speak, prosecutors said Wednesday in charging theofficer with manslaughter.

Officer David Krupinski, 23, was arraigned Wednesday afternoonin 36th District Court on the felony charge, punishable uponconviction by up to 15 years in prison.

Krupinski is charged in the Aug. 29 death of Errol Shaw, whosedeath contributed to Mayor Dennis Archer’s request for federalscrutiny of police use of deadly force since 1995.

In a letter Monday to the Justice Department, Archer wrote of“an immediate need for a fresh [government] review” of theshootings and the Detroit Police Department’s procedures. Archersaid the step was to “preserve and enhance [Detroit citizens’]confidence” in their police.

Krupinski, a 3½-year veteran of the force, was released on a$100,000 personal bond, court officials said. A hearing todetermine whether there was sufficient evidence for him to standtrial was set for Nov. 1.

‘A Sad Day’

“This is a sad day for all police officers all around,” saidKrupinski’s mother, Ellen Holmes. “They have a young man who wasout there risking his life, doing his job … and they call him acriminal? That is a shame. …”

“I’ve lost my faith in the system, that’s for sure.”

Over the years, according to newspaper and city reports, Detroithas emerged as the nation’s leader among the largest cities in thenumber of deadly police shootings, costing taxpayers $124 millionin lawsuit settlements and judgments from January 1987 through lastDecember.

But in recent months, a number of high-profile, fatal shootingsby local police — one case has prompted an FBI civil rightsinvestigation — has unnerved city and community leaders.

Wayne County prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday thatKrupinski and three other officers responded Aug. 29 to a reporteddomestic disturbance and were approached by Shaw, who was carryinga wooden-handled garden rake.

Mother Pleaded With Cops

When Shaw, 39, continued to approach one officer, prosecutorssaid, Krupinski shot the man twice “without legal excuse orjustification.” Shaw died later at a hospital.

“Basically, our position was that it was unreasonable [forKrupinski] to resort to fatal force without exploring otheroptions,” including use of pepper spray or simply backing away,said Kevin Simowski, an assistant prosecutor.

Wednesday, Shaw’s family said they were disappointed thatKrupinski was not charged with murder. Annie Shaw, the victim’smother, told reporters that she pleaded with police not to shoother son because he could not hear them.

“This family regrets that we have no justice,” Shaw’s brotherLavalle Shaw said at a news conference in Southfield. “However, weas a family choose to uphold and respect the law and would like towitness swift justice.”

The family is suing Krupinski and the police department,claiming wrongful death and violation of civil rights.

Cold-Blooded Killing?

Family lawyer Geoffrey Fieger called the death a “cold-bloodedhomicide carried out under no threat whatsoever.”

Police Chief Benny Napoleon, who did not immediately return amessage Wednesday, has said the rake was a dangerous weapon, andofficers are trained to shoot to kill when threatened with deadlyforce. He said pepper spray isn’t meant for use against peoplepresenting a threat to life.

Napoleon promised Shaw’s family a thorough investigation of theshooting, which the local chapter of the NAACP called “horrifyingand sickening.”

Media reports about Shaw’s death prompted the FBI to launch acivil rights investigation of the case, said Dawn Clenney, aspokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit. The FBI eventually will sendits findings to the Justice Department for consideration, she said.

Kara Peterman, spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s civilrights division in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday the governmenthas received Archer’s request, “will consider what the mayor saysin the letter and act accordingly.” She would not speculate howsoon the agency might respond.

Deadly Force Questioned

Napoleon said last Friday he welcomed the federal review soughtby Archer, adding, “if we had something to hide, I would bereluctant.”

The issue of Detroit police shootings has boiled over sincepublished reports earlier this year questioned the deadly forceused by Officer Eugene Brown, who has fatally shot three people insix years.

The department initially cleared Brown, who has been the targetof several lawsuits accusing him of wrongdoing. But public outcry over hisshootings prompted the panel’s ongoing review of his record.

Less than two weeks after Shaw’s death, police fatally shot49-year-old Dwight Turner, who had been shooting at a stray dog andwho authorities said refused to drop his gun.

Prosecutors are reviewing police reports in the Turner case andwill decide “without undue delay” whether that officer should becharged, likely not this week, Simowski said.

Training Measures Adopted

Archer said Tuesday that his request for the federal reviewrepresents “part of an aggressive strategy of steps designed tocreate long-term substantial change” in police operations.

New training measures adopted by the Detroit department includerequiring police cadets to undergo 26 hours of training in how andwhen to use deadly force, up from the current 16 hours.

Four hours of training on how to handle hearing-impaired peoplealso are being added, and the department next month will holdtraining sessions on police management of hostile situations.

The department also has won a grant to develop a computerprogram meant to help officers make a quick decision whether to usedeadly force in “real-world” situations, Archer said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events