Body-cam footage released of fatal officer-involved shooting, prosecutor rules use of force justified

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GARDEN CITY, ID- It’s the story that Law Enforcement Today first learned about when “activists” reached out to us about “killer cops”.

According to reports, Garden City police officials released body camera footage of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Thomas Bunde and announced that the officers were justified in their use of force.

During the news conference, police released the details surrounding the shooting of Bunde, who reportedly pointed a gun at officers and threatened them.

Valley County Prosecutor Brian Naugle ruled that the two officers who fired their guns at Bunde were justified in using lethal force.

The shooting occurred at around 1 a.m. on April 13th when Garden City police responded to a domestic disturbance call in the 5100-block of North Quinella Street. 

After the shooting, all investigative reports were routed from the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office to Naugle’s office, which reviewed all evidence.

His office declined to file any criminal charges. Garden City Police Chief Rick Allen declined to name the two officers who fatally shot Bunde.

Allen added that all three officers present for the shooting had no previous critical incidents on their records. 

When officers arrived on scene, Bunde’s wife was sitting on the front steps of the trailer.

She told police that she wasn’t hurt but that she had “scratched” Bunde and that he was drunk and might need medical attention. Body camera footage shows the woman saying:

“I can’t deal with it.”

An officer proceeded to knock on the door of the home and Bunde responded that he needed “to put some pants on.” At that point in the interaction, police believed that Bunde was the victim in the incident.

However, moments later body camera footage shows Bunde open the front door and walk out of the house with a gun in his hand pointed at the officer’s head. Bunde announced in the video:

“I’ll blow your (expletive) head off.”

The officer jumped back and officers ordered Bunde to drop the gun. Bunde continued to point his gun at the officers and a split second later, officers opened fire on him.

After Bunde dropped to the ground, footage shows officers handcuffing him and immediately rendering First Aid.

Bunde was pronounced dead at the scene. Chief Allen told reporters that Bunde had been standing less than an arm’s length away from the officer he was pointing the gun at.

Allen added that Bunde was standing close enough to the officer in the doorway that he could reach out and touch his hat.

Investigators reported that it turned out the gun that Bunde had pointed at the officers was not loaded. Bunde’s wife stated that she had taken the gun from him on a prior occasion and had hidden it from him.

When officers first arrived and asked if there were any weapons in the house, she replied no.

Chief Allen said that a toxicology report showed Bunde’s blood alcohol level was .24 when he died, which is three times above the legal driving limit. During the news conference, Allen commended his officers’ handling of the incident and that his thoughts and prayers were with Bunde’s family. Allen said in a statement:

“Unfortunately, with situations like this, there are no winners. There are merely survivors.”

Naugle said in a statement:

“Based on the facts gleaned from that investigation I have determined that the homicide was justifiable under Idaho law and therefore my office has declined to file criminal charges.”

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DA rules fatal shooting where suspect grabbed cop’s gun was justified – family now suing police

July 27th, 2021

WEST VALLEY CITY, UT- On Thursday, July 22nd, Salt Lake County prosecutors ruled that an officer was justified in using deadly force on a handcuffed suspect after he grabbed an officer’s gun inside a police station basement in 2019.

According to District Attorney Sim Gill, Sgt. Tyler Longman will not face any charges related to the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Chad Michael Breinholt on August 23, 2019. Breinholt was in the West Valley City police station following an intoxication-related arrest.

Body camera reportedly shows him wrestling with two officers with his hands cuffed behind his back. In the footage, one of the officers is yelling that Breinholt was grabbing his gun. The footage shows that the gun remained in the holster.

According to reports, Breinholt had a blood-alcohol level of more than three times Utah’s legal limit when he barged into his girlfriend’s workplace on August 23, 2019 causing a disturbance inside the business. 

The woman who called 911 stated that the suspect appeared to be “either intoxicated or high” and was arguing with his girlfriend and “causing problems.” The 911 caller said:

“He appears to be either intoxicated or high on something. He drive here, which is concerning and now he’s still here in the parking lot causing a ruckus and he’s trying to get keys from her, she took the keys away. And he’s not OK, he stumbling, he’s slurring.”

Police placed Breinholt under arrest and transported him to the DUI processing area in the basement of city hall. Breinholt was handcuffed behind his back and taken to a small office where he was told to sit in a chair while officers waited to obtain a warrant to draw a blood sample from him for toxicology testing.

https://twitter.com/benjancewicz/status/1418572268041641987

Reportedly, at one point, he slipped off his show and held it behind his back, claiming to have a gun inside of it. Body camera footage shows that one of the officers repeatedly instructed Breinholt to remain seated, as he persisted in his claim about the alleged gun in his shoe.

One officer finally said:

“Tell yah what, give me your shoe.”

Immediately, the suspect replied:

“No.”

As the officer pulled the suspect towards him, a second officer pried the shoe out of Breinholt’s cuffed hands. In the process, the suspect managed to reach his hands around his left hip from behind his body and grabbed onto the officer’s duty weapon. The officer yelled:

“(Expletive)! He’s got my gun!”

The second officer attempted to pull the suspect backwards in the confines of the small room as Sgt. Longman rushed in to help quell the brawl. He drew his duty pistol and fired a single round at point-blank range.

Body camera footage shows the officers leaving the office as Breinholt collapsed to the floor. A large pool of blood immediately spilled out around him. According to police, Breinholt never managed to get the officer’s duty weapon out of its holster.

Nearly two years after the fatal shooting, Gill announced that Sgt. Longman’s actions were justified. He stated:

“Sgt. Longman was faced with a deadly force situation in which it appeared possible that, unless Mr. Breinholt was stopped, he would not stop grabbing Officer [Taylor] Atkin’s gun from his holster.”

Gill added that two law enforcement expert witnesses agreed that the brawl over the firearm made Sgt. Longman’s decision to fire his duty weapon “reasonable and necessary.” 

During an interview with the district attorney’s office, Sgt. Longman said he experienced tunnel vision after he realized the suspect’s hands were on his fellow officer’s gun. He said Breinholt was making a “jerking motion” as he tried to get the weapon out of the holster.

According to the district attorney’s report said:

“He’s fighting for an officer’s gun. If that gun comes out, Officer Atkin is going to get shot, I could be shot, I have to end it now. I have to stop the threat. At that point, it was a training based reactionary response.”

The West Valley City incident review committee determined that Sgt. Longman acted within policy and he was returned to duty while awaiting Gill’s decision. Utah’s Fraternal Order of Police also backed the veteran officer. 

Longman joined the force in 2006 and has no record of disciplinary action during his 15 years of service, however, critics have accosted him for being involved in two prior justified shootings. Sgt. Longman’s attorney, Jeremy Jones, said he is pleased with Gill’s decision. He said:

“Unfortunately, when an individual chooses to put their hands on an officer’s firearm and try to draw that firearm, there just aren’t good options. If an officer waits or allows the weapon to be drawn, odds are good that one of the officers isn’t going to go home.”

The West Valley City Police Department said Gill’s decision was the final component needed to bring the case to a close. The department released a statement saying:

“This decision brings to a close a challenging chapter for all involved. We are grateful to our officers who diligently serve our community each day and in the face of impossibly difficult decisions, consistently do their best.”

Colin King, the attorney representing Breinholt’s family, said they will file a lawsuit against the city within the next month. He said in a statement:

“That use of force was utterly and completely unjustified. If this isn’t excessive force, I don’t know what is. Chad Breinholt was completely restrained and controlled the moment he was shot in the side of the forehead point-blank by Officer Longman.”

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Ex-wife of judge involved in deciding whether to charge cop for justified shooting represented the victims’ families

May 22nd, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WI- On June 25th, a Milwaukee County judge will decide whether charges should be filed against former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in connection with the 2016 fatal shooting of Jay Anderson Jr. 

According to reports, the ex-wife of the Milwaukee County judge tasked with making this decision, is also an attorney who has represented the family of the suspect the officer killed.

In June 2020, Deja Vishny, the ex-wife of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Yamahiro, was one of two attorneys representing the families of Alvin Cole and Jay Anderson Jr.

Officer Mensah reportedly fatally shot both Cole and Anderson in two separate incidents. Anderson was reportedly fatally shot on June 23, 2016 after Anderson lunged for a gun during a traffic stop after the officer spotted the weapon and ordered him to put his hands up. 

Cole was fatally shot after the teen opened fired on police with a stolen handgun on February 2, 2020. According to reports, both shootings were ruled as justified, as was a third officer-involved shooting involving Officer Mensah.

During summer 2020, Vishny and fellow attorney Kimberley Motley filed complaints and open records requests on behalf of their clients, the Cole and Anderson families. During a protest outside the Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD), Vishny declared:

“We want Joseph Mensah to be terminated from his employment. He should not be a police officer. He’s killed three people in five years. He’s fired 19 shots. He has not been disciplined by the police department for what he has done.”

At the time, Officer Mensah was a five-year veteran of WPD. He was also the subject of a Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission (PFC) investigation and the target of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa for months.

In July 2020, the PFC voted to suspend Officer Mensah and assigned a former federal prosecutor to re-investigate the 2016 shooting of Anderson, even though it had already been ruled justified by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.

At the same time, the Wauwatosa Common Council reportedly passed a non-binding resolution calling for the city administrator and the police chief to fire Officer Mensah, which the mayor agreed to sign. At the time, Mayor Dennis McBride said in a statement:

“I’m signing it today. We understand, it’s not just community pressure, that’s substantial. We hear it. We’ve heard it, but the experts tell us it’s extraordinarily rare, perhaps unique for one officer to be involved in three shootings that result in death while employed, especially in a five-year period.”

For months, Officer Mensah was subjected to harassment by protesters, including an attack on him and his Milwaukee police officer girlfriend at her home while her children were inside. Reportedly, one of the protesters fired a shotgun at the door of the home, barely missing Officer Mensah.

While Officer Mensah continued to face harassment, the Anderson family kept up the pressure on the PFC and the mayor. The PFC special investigator’s report ultimately concluded that the officer should be fired. 

The report allegedly stated that permitting Officer Mensah to remain an officer “creates an extraordinary, unwarranted, and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa.”

Officer Mensah reached an agreement with the city to resign from its police department effective November 30, 2020 in exchange for a compensation package worth $125,000. Officer Mensah was also later cleared by federal civil rights investigators in a separate probe. 

Even so, Motley continued to demand the court order a new investigation into the death of Anderson. Under Wisconsin law, a “circuit judge may permit the filing of a complaint,” even if the district attorney refuses to do so.

However, before that can happen, a judge must find probable cause to believe an individual could be criminally charged. During a third court hearing before Yamahiro on Wednesday, May 19th, Motley argued that Anderson never presented a threat to Officer Mensah and that the officer’s actions were “contrary to his privilege for use of force.”

As of this writing, Vishny’s current level of involvement in the case is unclear, but she continues to work for Motley’s law firm on an “of counsel” basis. Her ex-husband, who also happens to be a former defense attorney, is expected to issue his decision on June 25th.

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Officer indicted for murder after shooting suspect who was trying to run him over with a car

May 10th, 2021

BRISTOL, VA – A Bristol police officer was indicted by a grand jury for murder Monday in the shooting death of a man who refused to exit his vehicle in the parking lot of a motel and drove towards an officer.

Bristol Officer Jonathan Brown was released on a $25,000 bond after turning himself in to the Virginia State Police on Tuesday following the indictment, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Roanoke Don Caldwell.

Caldwell agreed to Brown’s released on bond:

“That’s the commonwealth’s recommendation. I do not consider him a flight risk or a danger to the community pending the trial.”

Brown was indicted Monday by a Bristol Circuit Court grand jury on charges of murder, using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and shooting into an occupied vehicle in the March 30 shooting death of Jonathan Kohler, 31, of Bristol, Tennessee.

The incident began when police received a 911 call just before 4:30 a.m. from a caller at a motel about shots being fired. Officers responded to the call and encountered Kohler in the driver’s seat of a 1994 Ford Mustang, according to a Virginia State Police news release.

The statement said Kohler refused officers’ repeated orders to exit the vehicle and suddenly drove the vehicle at Brown:

“As officers were verbally engaged with Kohler, he backed up and then drove forward in an attempt to exit the parking lot, at which point one of the officers fired at Kohler’s vehicle.

“He then put the Mustang into drive and sped towards one of the officers. The officer fired at the suspect vehicle as it came at him.”

Kohler, 31, was struck by gunfire and died at the scene. No officers were injured during the incident.

Caldwell, who was appointed by a judge to prosecute the case, refused to comment on the evidence in this case:

“I don’t believe in trying cases in the public eye. The evidence will be presented during trial, and a trier of fact, either a judge or jury, will make a decision.”

Officer Brown has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the charges and an internal affairs investigation. This is routine procedure in a police-involved shooting.

A statement issued by Bristol City Manager and Attorney Randall Eads and Mayor Bill Hartley seemed to prejudge the officer’s guilt prior to the completion of the investigation:

“(The internal affairs) investigation was not conducted contemporaneously with the criminal investigation due to procedural issues that could have hampered the criminal investigation. The investigation is expected to be completed within 10 days.

“We do not condone, nor will we tolerate the unnecessary use of force by our police officers. There is a time and place for the use of force, and force must be used sparingly and within the bounds of the law.”

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Officer charged with manslaughter in shooting death of Bennie Edwards, who charged officers with a knife

March 19. 2021

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma District Attorney’s Office charged a city police officer involved with the shooting death of Bennie Edwards late last year with manslaughter on Thursday.

Bennie Edwards, a black man with mental illness, was armed with a knife and charged at officers before the shooting.

 

District Attorney David Prater filed the charges against Sgt. Clifford Holman.  In filing the charges, Prater said:

“There are always many things to consider when determining whether or not an officer’s use of deadly force is lawfully justified or not. Any loss of human life is tragic, and I take these decisions very seriously.”

The incident occurred on December 11, when officers were called to a report of a homeless man on the sidewalk in front of Extra Cash Gold and Loan on Hefner Road in the city. Police said the business owner had called police about 60-year-old Edwards hanging out in front of his business.

In an affidavit, investigating detective Bryn Carter said that the first officer to arrive, Sgt. Keith Duroy, requested backup from a unit carrying a taser. Duroy made contact with Edwards, who was armed with a knife and told the officer to leave.

Sgt. Holman arrived on the scene with a taser. Another officer also arrived but did not deploy a taser or fire shots during the incident.

Edwards continued holding the knife despite multiple orders from police to drop it. When he refused, Sgt. Holman deployed his taser, which had no effect. Edward ran toward Duroy with the knife after the failed taser attempt, and then turned and began running away from the officers.

Both DuRoy and Sgt. Holman fired rounds at Edwards. The affidavit filed by Carter read:

“(Holman) fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away, striking him in his upper middle back causing his death.”

Holman’s attorney released a statement saying his client acted accordingly, and that the law firm will vigorously defend the officer:

“(Holman) acted lawfully, and we are proud to represent him as we fight these charges in a court of law.”

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) also defended the actions of Sgt. Holman, saying he acted as he was trained. Police Union President John George said:

“In this situation, when faced with a disturbed individual armed with a deadly weapon, our officers used multiple methods of de-escalation and less-lethal options to try to avoid the use of deadly force.

“When those efforts were ineffective, the officers were put in peril when they were charged by the armed person. We maintain that Sgt. Holman upheld his duty and followed the law.”

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