City releases personnel file for officer involved in Elwood Avenue Shooting
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The City of South Bend has released the personnel file on the officer involved in Tuesday's shooting on Elwood Avenue.
According to the file, Officer Samuel Chaput is a U.S. Army veteran who has been honored several times by the South Bend Police Department. There were no reports of disciplinary action against the officer during his time with the department.
Police say, Chaput was called to Elwood Avenue Tuesday evening for a report of an unwanted person. Chaput shot the suspect after he became aggressive towards him.
A witness, who did not want to be identified, told ABC57, "I thought the officer was defending himself. He had no time to look for his taser, he didn't have time to look for pepper spray, none of that, so he just grabbed the first thing to get this guy off of him, because this guy was on top of him at this time."
This is the second time this officer was faced with the decision of whether to shoot a suspect. Officer Chaput was one of two officers who responded to an armed robbery at a Check into Cash store on Portage Avenue in November of 2015. He also made the call then to pull the trigger after the suspect in that robbery, Avery Ray, raised a gun and ignored orders to put it down.
Officer Chaput received the Chief's Award of Valor in 2016 for his actions during that case.
According to his personnel file, he also received commendations for his work in 2017 investigating a carjacking and a robbery.
That officer now getting praise once again for his actions tuesday night, but this time from a witness to it all.
"I'm not no big fan of the police or nothing like that, because I got a history myself, but right is right and wrong is wrong," said the witness. "That officer defended himself, and I'm getting tired of some of these officers getting a bad rap for a situation that they got to handle. "To me, yeah, the officer was innocent. The officer was innocent, point blank."
This suspect has resisted law enforcement before. According to this probable cause affidavit, in January of this year Eppenger became aggressive with officers while they were questioning him about threats he allegedly made against a security guard at Memorial Hospital.
The witness to Tuesday night's shooting says, even after being forced to pull the trigger Officer Chaput did everything he could to keep the suspect alive.
"To me, it's showing that the officer still trying to save this man's life, because the officer was still calm, trying to ask him to be calm, I'm trying to save your life," said the witness. "I'm trying to add pressure to your wound so that we can get you some help."
According to court records, Eppenger was out on bond for that incident at Memorial Hospital and was awaiting a trial in April when Tuesday's shooting occurred.