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Prosecutor Says Cop Justified In Responding To Threat Of Butcher Knife With Bullets

Kent County, MI – The county prosecutor issued a written opinion on Wednesday that the Kentwood police officer who shot a suspect armed with a bloody butcher knife in October was justified in his use of force.

The incident occurred at about 10:20 p.m. on Oct. 24 in the 4500-block of Grantwood Street SE when Kentwood police responded to a report of a man who had stabbed his roommate in the back in an unprovoked attack, MLive reported.

Kentwood Police Officers Tyler Smith and Wendy Colin arrived on the scene shortly after Kentwood Police Officer Seth Beele.

Officer Smith had prepared a shotgun with long-range, less-lethal beanbag rounds prior to arrival at the scene, MLive reported.

Vincent Vallo said his roommate – 60-year-old Kim Douglas Ropp – was still armed with a bloody butcher knife when police entered the residence, WOOD reported.

Another man had been stabbed by Ropp and was lying still on the floor, MLive reported.

Vallo said officers first deployed beanbag rounds – one of which struck him and left a welt – but were eventually forced to use lethal force against his rampaging roommate.

He told investigators that Ropp charged at officers with a large butcher knife held over his head from four-to-five feet away, WOOD reported.

“It was like a full-grown steak knife,” Vallo said. “It was huge, and he’s charging after them, so I guess they felt threatened.”

“He was like the devil was in his eye. He kept going toward the officers. That’s why they ended up shooting him,” Ropp’s roommate told WOOD.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said Officer Smith fired two less-lethal rounds at Ropp that had little effect on the inebriated man and repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife, MLive reported.

“Officer Smith clearly told Mr. Ropp to, ‘Drop the knife! Drop the knife! Drop it!’ Mr. Ropp did not drop the knife. Officer Smith writes in his report, ‘Kim Ropp looked at me and raised the knife,’” Becker wrote in the opinion released on Dec. 15.

The prosecutor said that Officer Smith said he thought he was about to be stabbed when he fired three or four rounds at Ropp’s upper body, MLive reported.

Ropp was shot three times and dropped to the ground.

He died at the scene, MLive reported.

The man who had been stabbed by Ropp was transported to the hospital for treatment and ultimately survived his injuries.

The county prosecutor said Smith acted in defense of himself and others, according to MLive.

“The rule of self-defense is well established in Michigan law,” Becker wrote. “As a general rule, the use of deadly force against another person in self-defense by one who is free from fault is justifiable if, under all the circumstances, he honestly and reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that it is necessary for him to exercise deadly force.”

He wrote in his opinion that Officer Smith had a duty to protect others in the “chaotic scene,” MLive reported.

Becker wrote in his opinion that Officer Smith said Ropp had a “‘1000-yard stare” before he shot him, a look that he had been trained to understand meant somebody was emotionally detached from reality.

“Officer Smith justifiably met that threat with deadly force when he decided to fire his weapon to stop him,” the prosecutor wrote in his opinion. “As the law states, a police officer has a duty and responsibility to protect the citizens of their community and use appropriate force in defense of the general public. Officer Smith used appropriate force, to protect himself and the others in the home.”

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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