A police officer lacked “legal excuse or justification” to fatally shoot a garden rake-wielding man who could not hear or speak, prosecutors said Wednesday in charging the officer with manslaughter.
Officer David Krupinski, 23, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in 36th District Court on the felony charge, punishable upon conviction by up to 15 years in prison.
Krupinski is charged in the Aug. 29 death of Errol Shaw, whose death contributed to Mayor Dennis Archer’s request for federal scrutiny 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 the shootings and the Detroit Police Department’s procedures. Archer said 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 to determine whether there was sufficient evidence for him to stand trial was set for Nov. 1.
‘A Sad Day’
“This is a sad day for all police officers all around,” said Krupinski’s mother, Ellen Holmes. “They have a young man who was out there risking his life, doing his job … and they call him a criminal? 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, Detroit has emerged as the nation’s leader among the largest cities in the number of deadly police shootings, costing taxpayers $124 million in lawsuit settlements and judgments from January 1987 through last December.
But in recent months, a number of high-profile, fatal shootings by local police — one case has prompted an FBI civil rights investigation — has unnerved city and community leaders.
Wayne County prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday that Krupinski and three other officers responded Aug. 29 to a reported domestic disturbance and were approached by Shaw, who was carrying a wooden-handled garden rake.
Mother Pleaded With Cops
When Shaw, 39, continued to approach one officer, prosecutors said, Krupinski shot the man twice “without legal excuse or justification.” Shaw died later at a hospital.
“Basically, our position was that it was unreasonable [for Krupinski] to resort to fatal force without exploring other options,” including use of pepper spray or simply backing away, said Kevin Simowski, an assistant prosecutor.
Wednesday, Shaw’s family said they were disappointed that Krupinski was not charged with murder. Annie Shaw, the victim’s mother, told reporters that she pleaded with police not to shoot her son because he could not hear them.
“This family regrets that we have no justice,” Shaw’s brother Lavalle Shaw said at a news conference in Southfield. “However, we as a family choose to uphold and respect the law and would like to witness swift justice.”
The family is suing Krupinski and the police department, claiming wrongful death and violation of civil rights.
Family lawyer Geoffrey Fieger called the death a “cold-blooded homicide carried out under no threat whatsoever.”
Police Chief Benny Napoleon, who did not immediately return a message Wednesday, has said the rake was a dangerous weapon, and officers are trained to shoot to kill when threatened with deadly force. He said pepper spray isn’t meant for use against people presenting a threat to life.
Napoleon promised Shaw’s family a thorough investigation of the shooting, which the local chapter of the NAACP called “horrifying and sickening.”
Media reports about Shaw’s death prompted the FBI to launch a civil rights investigation of the case, said Dawn Clenney, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit. The FBI eventually will send its findings to the Justice Department for consideration, she said.
Kara Peterman, spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s civil rights division in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday the government has received Archer’s request, “will consider what the mayor says in the letter and act accordingly.” She would not speculate how soon the agency might respond.
Deadly Force Questioned
Napoleon said last Friday he welcomed the federal review sought by Archer, adding, “if we had something to hide, I would be reluctant.”
The issue of Detroit police shootings has boiled over since published reports earlier this year questioned the deadly force used by Officer Eugene Brown, who has fatally shot three people in six years.
The department initially cleared Brown, who has been the target of several lawsuits accusing him of wrongdoing. But public outcry over his shootings prompted the panel’s ongoing review of his record.
Less than two weeks after Shaw’s death, police fatally shot 49-year-old Dwight Turner, who had been shooting at a stray dog and who authorities said refused to drop his gun.
Prosecutors are reviewing police reports in the Turner case and will decide “without undue delay” whether that officer should be charged, likely not this week, Simowski said.
Training Measures Adopted
Archer said Tuesday that his request for the federal review represents “part of an aggressive strategy of steps designed to create long-term substantial change” in police operations.
New training measures adopted by the Detroit department include requiring police cadets to undergo 26 hours of training in how and when to use deadly force, up from the current 16 hours.
Four hours of training on how to handle hearing-impaired people also are being added, and the department next month will hold training sessions on police management of hostile situations.
The department also has won a grant to develop a computer program meant to help officers make a quick decision whether to use deadly force in “real-world” situations, Archer said.