Nearly a week after a Ball State University student was shot and killed by a member of the school's police force, authorities are conducting an investigation into the incident, leading to questions about whether or not the use of deadly force was justified.
At 3:25 a.m. on Saturday, Officer Robert Duplain fired four shots at 21-year-old student Michael McKinney, according to Terry Winters, deputy chief of police for the Muncie, Ind., Police Department.
Duplain was responding to a 911 call by a woman who reported that someone was trying to gain entry to her home, pounding on her door. Although the call was originally routed to the Muncie Police, BSU officers who were within closer range of the scene were contacted and arrived first.
According to Winters, Duplain, a 24-year-old officer who had been with the force for seven months, confronted McKinney in the front yard of the woman's residence. McKinney was repeatedly told to take his hands out of his pockets, and to lay on the ground, but refused, police said. He then ran towards Duplain with his arms open before Duplain shot him with a 9 mm gun, killing him.
As the BSU community continues to grieve McKinney's death, Muncie Police have begun an investigation into the incident. Duplain has also been placed on paid administrative leave from his post.
Although questions have been raised about whether Duplain's use of deadly force against McKinney was justified, BSU spokeswoman Heather Shupe said there does not appear to be evidence that the officer acted against protocol.
"Based on the preliminary information... at this point from the facts he had, our officer acted in a way that was consistent with his training and our use of force policy," Shupe said.
"Because this is under investigation by the Muncie Police, we are not table to talk about the details of either the incident or the investigation," Shupe added.
According to the BSU public safety "Use of Force" policy, which was published in the Ball State Daily News on Wednesday, an officer is only permitted to use deadly force "if he/she reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to self or a third person."
The policy describes a "force continuum" that officers can use in response to various situations, ranging from police presence to the use of weapons, noting that "the use of force must be appropriate for the circumstances and conditions for which it is applied."
It states, though, that various levels of forces need not necessarily be used in succession, such that Duplain was not required to, for instance, use his baton before resorting to the use of deadly force.
"The force continuum should not be considered a 'ladder' in that the officer must start at the lowest force option and progress or climb to the higher force options," the BSU policy states.
If the use of a deadly weapon is not found to be justified, the policy notes, the officer may face "civil liability for damages."
At Penn, University Police follow similar guidelines regarding the use of force.
"It is the policy of the Penn Police Department to employ the amount of force that is reasonable and necessary to overcome the resistance offered [by a suspect], effect a lawful restraint or accomplish the lawful performance of duty while protecting the public," said Chief of Police Tom Rambo, adding that the use of unreasonable force is "prohibited and not tolerated" under any circumstances.
Like BSU's policy, the UPPD's, which has been in effect since 1996 and is reviewed annually, also describes a range of types of force that can be used if necessary. These range from "verbal direction, verbal commands" to "hard intermediate weapon control," such as the use of a baton, to "deadly force."
Justified use of the latter requires that the officer believes that he or she is in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
Rambo stressed that this depends on the circumstances of each individual situation.
"Each incident is specific," Rambo said. "The officer has to make a judgment many times in one second."
When force is used, UPPD officers are required to file a report which is ultimately reviewed by Rambo. If the actions taken by the officer seem to constitute "an intentional act of excessive force or a misapplication of policy" and the death of a subject is involved, the case is turned over to the Philadelphia Police for homicide investigation.
However, Rambo said that this has not occurred during his tenure at the UPPD.
Rambo stressed that it is important to avoid pointing fingers at the officer until the situation has been fully reviewed.
"Although I do not know the specifics of this case, I believe that any judgment on the officer's actions should be held off until all the facts are available," Rambo said. "I'm sure that a thorough investigation is being conducted and that actions will be taken at the conclusion if necessary."Comments powered by Disqus
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