A Michigan prosecutor recently concluded that Crawford County Sheriff's Deputy John Klepadlo was justified in using deadly force to stop a man who lunged at him with a knife. Although a state police investigator wanted to charge Klepadlo in connection with the February 3 shooting in Grayling, Roscommon County Prosecutor Mark Jernigan, whom the Michigan Attorney General's Office asked to review the case, said Klepadlo responded appropriately to a potentially lethal threat:
The deceased was in possession of an edged weapon. The deceased pulled a knife and hid it behind his back. At the point where he pulls his hand forward and lunges at the officer, he is in such close proximity, and presents a clear danger of deadly force, the officer is left with no option other than to use deadly force to protect himself, the other officer and the three civilians that were present. The use of deadly force is completely justified, and therefore the homicide was justified.
Sounds reasonable, until you learn the circumstances of the shooting, which make it seem not quite so justified. "The deceased," William Reddie, drew the weapon, a four-inch pocketknife, because Klepadlo had come to his apartment, along with a city police officer and two employees of Children's Protective Services, to "remove" his 3-year-old son, Cameron. The Petoskey News explains why:
Lead [Michigan State Police] investigator Detective Sgt. Rick Sekely said events leading up to the shooting and attempts to remove the son from the residence began earlier in the day when officers went to Reddie’s apartment in response to a possible domestic disturbance.
Upon arriving at the scene and making contact with Reddie, officers indicated Reddie was on the phone in what seemed to be a heated argument with a woman. Reports indicate Reddie appeared agitated, and when officers stated they could smell the odor of marijuana in the apartment, Sekely said Reddie admitted to having smoked marijuana that morning. While at the residence, officers indicated they observed a minor child at the apartment.
Sekely said officers, following protocol, contacted protective services to report Reddie had been smoking marijuana in the presence of his son.
Child services workers then went to the apartment, and Sekely said they confronted Reddie about consuming marijuana in the home and asked him to take a drug test. Sekely said workers indicated Reddie was agitated, and they felt uncomfortable while at the residence.
An emergency court order to remove the child from the care of Reddie was obtained by Child Protective Services, and they requested assistance from the sheriff's department and city police.
In short, someone called the cops because Reddie was having a loud telephone conversation, whereupon the cops discovered that Reddie was a pot smoker, which automatically triggered the chain of events that led to his death. Is it a mystery that Reddie "appeared agitated" when cops burst into his home while he was in the middle of an argument, that he was again "agitated" when CPS workers dropped in and threatened to take away his son, or that he was even more agitated when they came by to follow through on that threat?
"I was on the phone with my son all day," Reddie's mother told the Crawford County Avalanche, "and that cop [Alan Somero, who responded to the domestic disturbance report, contacted CPS, and returned to snatch Cameron] was bullying him and harassing him so badly." The paper reports that she was "baffled" that "authorities attempted to take his son after tests indicated there was no marijuana or alcohol involved." (Post-mortem toxicology likewise found no traces of marijuana or alcohol—puzzling in light of the claim that Reddie "admitted to having smoked marijuana that morning.") She added that when CPS came for Reddie's son, "they took the only thing he ever loved."
Needless to say, it is a bad idea to pull a knife on a couple of cops. But it is also a bad idea to presume that a pot smoker must be an unfit parent, justifying the legally blessed kidnapping of his son. I would even venture to say that seeing his father killed in front of him and then being whisked off to "foster care" was a worse trauma for Cameron than seeing his father smoke pot.
[via the Drug War Chronicle]