SOUTH BEND, Ind.–The shooting and killing of Dante Kittrell by South Bend Police has been ruled a justifiable homicide. That means the officers in the shooting will not be charged.
Kittrell was killed July 29 near Coquillard Elementary School. Body camera footage that was released on Wednesday showed that police tried to get Kittrell to calm down for roughly 45 minutes. Kittrell would respond with statements including “I’m ready to die,” “end this,” “fire it,” and “if I point my weapon at you, you have to do your job, right?” Kittrell was armed with what appeared to be a handgun, but was instead determined to be a highly-detailed replica of a tan Glock 9 mm.
Prosecutors decided that police had no way of knowing Kittrell’s gun was not real.
Officers have maintained that they only wanted to use deadly force as a last resort.
“He knew how to counter it. He knew what to say. He knew what to do, and he was unfortunately determined to end his life that way. It is a tragedy, but the important thing is there are some false narratives that have perpetuated over the past few weeks, and I encourage everyone not to just look at our presentation, but review the footage in full to get an understanding, and this is an example of when the vantage point really matters,” said South Bend Mayor James Mueller.
Kitrell was shot three times.
Many people in South Bend and St. Joseph County were wondering why a mental health response team was not called. South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said the answer to that is simple.
“Why wasn’t a mental health crisis team called? They would not respond to an armed person in that state. Plain and simple. So, by the time you get to this situation, it’s too late. We’ve got to deal with mental health before we get to situations such as these,” said Ruszkowski.
Under Indiana law, deadly force is justified when a person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury.
“For people to point fingers when these officers who care about everybody, themselves secondary, infuriates me,” Ruszkowski added. “Obviously, I get emotional about this because these cops put their lives on the line and their hearts and souls into everything they do. And to receive the treatment they receive is wrong.”
Sean Drew, an attorney representing the Kittrell family, said he was not surprised that no criminal charges were filed and that he doesn’t believe local police agencies are capable of conducting an impartial investigation.
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