Fatal June 11 officer-involved shooting ruled justified

NOW: Fatal June 11 officer-involved shooting ruled justified

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After review of all the evidence the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office announced at a press conference Thursday afternoon that the officer-involved shooting on June 11, which left one dead, was justified.

During the press conference, the prosecutor's office specifically stated, because the officer involved was acting in self-defense and defense of others, the shooting which resulted in the death of John Neiswender was legally justified.

Authorities say this conclusion came after a review of witness statements, including seven civilian witnesses, a forensic review of the physical evidence, and a review of video of the incident itself.

The St. Joseph County Police and the Mishawaka Police Departments jointly investigated the incident and found on the morning of June 11, Officers Joseph Carey and Randall McMurray responded to the 400 block of E. Colfax Avenue regarding a person threatening city workers with a knife.

Documents state the 911 caller told police Neiswender had been urinating in public and when confronted, he pulled out a knife and began chasing the city workers into their truck, where he also threatened them.

The caller told police Neiswender then left the immediate area.

Officers Carey and McMurray then arrived, and documents state they were informed of the threats and shown damage to the hood of the truck where Neiswender had stabbed it.

Documents state the officers initially stated, "It's leaning more toward vandalism than felony intimidation because of what they said."

Officers were then shown where Neiswender had walked away.

Documents go on to say a short time later, Officers Carey and McMurray arrived at 299 N. Niles Ave. where they came upon Neiswender.

The officers greeted Neiswender before authorities say he initially denied he had a knife.

Officers asked Neiswender to put his hands up and to keep his hands out of his pockets. Officers repeatedly asked him to put his hands on the wall.

Neiswender responded with, "No. Go ahead and shoot me. I'm a Vietnam veteran. You want to shoot me, go ahead."

Documents state the officers continued speaking with him, saying, " It's not a big deal. We just need…we want to get your side of the story."

The officers then told Neiswender to set his cigarette down and keep his hands out of his pocket when he pulls out a knife. Officer Carey then drew his firearm while McMurray drew his taser.

The officers repeatedly told him to keep his hands out of his pockets and to put the knife down.

Neiswender then tossed the knife towards the officers.

Officers then asked him to put his hands on the wall and asked him his name and explained they wanted to "figure out what happened." Neiswender told them they don't need his name.

One of the officers then told him, "So, partner. We want to talk to you, but since you threw a knife at me, I need to cuff you up."

Neiswender then told them, "You ain't cuffing me up. I will kill you," followed by cursing and repeating he'd kill the officer.

Neiswender continued by saying, "I already killed one cop. I'll kill you too."

Officers told him again, they needed to cuff him to get his side of the story.

The officers continued talking to him while asking him to focus. Neiswender cursed again while telling the officer not to point his gun at him.

At this point documents state Neiswender came out from around a dumpster toward the officers with his right arm raised with his fist clenched.

Carey told McMurray to "zap" him, at which point McMurray deployed his taser.

The officers told him to get on the ground and lay on his stomach. McMurray then deployed his taser a second time.

Neiswender then stood up and approached the officers waving his hands contacting the taser leads.

The two officers then began to retreat.

He then repeatedly cursed at the officers, telling them they were dead.

At this point, documents state Neiswender turned around and began to walk towards the knife on the ground.

Officers then told him, "Don't you pick up the knife man." They also told him to get on the ground several more times.

Documents state Neiswender then picked up the knife.

Neiswender then opened the knife, turned to officers, and stepped toward them, according to official documents.

Carey then discharged his firearm six times.

The entire encounter was captured on video from the body worn and in-car cameras.

Neiswender was taken to Memorial Hospital where he died.

A medical examination of Neiswender revealed he was struck with three shots: one grazed his right wrist, one entered his left side and exited, and one entered his left back area and exited his chest.

Investigators found the depth of Neiswender's clothing to be 12.99 mm, while the penetration depth of the taser probes was 11 mm, indicating the prongs did not make contact with him.

Documents state this is why the taser had no apparent effect on Neiswender.

Investigators say based upon a review of the totality of the circumstances, Carey's discharge of his firearm was reasonable.

Authorities say the officer was justifiably concerned for his own safety and the other officer.

The prosecutor's office says they cannot prove the officer who shot Neiswender was not acting in self-defense or defense of others due to a reasonable fear of imminent death or significant bodily injury.

The prosecutor's office states no charges will not be filed.

Officials say while the criminal investigation has been completed, the investigation and reports will be referred to the South Bend Police Department to determine if any policies, procedures, or protocols were violated.

Prior to the release of the above information, investigators and the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office met with members of Neiswender's family to inform them of the investigation's outcome.

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