Elkhart County District Attorney Says Fatal December Police Shooting Was Justified

ELKHART — Vicki Becker, Elkhart County District Attorney said Wednesday she would not file criminal charges against Elkhart police officers who shot and killed a man after he attempted to break into a liquor store.

According to a press release from the prosecutor’s office, Jahad Patterson, 20, who is black, was raising a gun towards officers when he was shot by the sergeant. Benjamin Martin and Officer Scott Swanson of the Elkhart Police Department in the early morning of December 15 in a parking lot near West Hively Avenue.

“Given the reasonably known information of Constables Martin and Swanson at the time of their use of lethal force, it is clear that no criminal charges are appropriate as the evidence demonstrates that each of them was acting reasonably within the scope of the self-defense law,” the statement said.

The Elkhart County Homicide Unit, which reports to the district attorney’s office, conducted the investigation.

Continued:Prosecutor says Mishawaka police fatal shooting justified and will not press criminal charges

Police were called to West Hively Avenue at around 5.30am on December 15 to reports that a man was attempting to break into Handy Spot Liquor. Video footage from security cameras at the Handy Spot Liquor on West Hively Avenue shows a man in light blue sweatpants and a black shirt banging on the store’s front door with his hand.

Officer Scott Swanson of the Elkhart Police Department

The man, identified as Patterson, then walks away from the store, takes a bicycle and heads west on Hively.

Martin and Swanson located Patterson in the parking lot of a Big Lots, a few hundred yards west of the liquor store, and “engaged the male subject,” police said.

According to the statement, officers ordered Patterson to show them his hands. Patterson then pulled a gun from his pocket and began raising it at Swanson. “Upon seeing the gun, Officer Swanson fired his gun,” and Martin also shot Patterson, officials said.

After Patterson collapsed to the ground, officers found him holding a handgun, the statement said. Patterson was pronounced dead at the scene.

A woman who declined to be named but lives in the Elkhart Green Apartment complex opposite said she woke up that morning to the sound of sirens and screams.

“I heard the officer yell ‘Drop your gun!’ and then I heard gunshots,” she said on December 15.

Prosecutors said Patterson was “under the influence of alcohol” when he was shot by police, although the statement did not say what his blood alcohol level was.

Police shooting justified

The Dec. 15 incident is the latest in a number of fatal police shootings that have recently been deemed justified by area prosecutors.

On Monday, Marshall County District Attorney Nelson Chipman announced that a Marshall County officer was cleared in shooting a suspect in Culver following a lawsuit. Police were first called to a Culver gas station for a suspected drunk driver.

Last month, St. Joseph County prosecutors said they would not press charges against Mishawaka police officer Garrett Schock when he shot and killed Michael Haas, 37, following a standoff at the Village Green mobile home park.

Officials said Haas came out of his trailer with a long gun and “fired his gun and a Mishawaka police officer returned fire.”

Becker also declined to file criminal charges in connection with a fatal police shooting in Elkhart in August. Becker said she found the Elkhart Town Police Sgt. Mike Davis was vindicated when he shot and killed 19-year-old Lonnel Cephas Jr. on August 27 while responding to the fatal shooting of Danton Munoz, who was days shy of his second birthday.

Email Marek Mazurek at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek

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