South Bend police release body cam video in an fatal officer-involved shooting ruled justified

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A deadly officer-involved shooting in downtown South Bend earlier this month has been ruled justified by the St. Joseph County Prosecutors Office.

Many in the community had questions after the June 11 shooting that resulted in the death of 69-year-old John Charles Neiswender, and a lot of those questions were answered by law enforcement at two separate news conferences on Thursday afternoon.

During the first news conference, prosecutors described what happened leading up to the shooting. They said they felt bad for the Neiswender’s family and everyone involved, but they said what happened was necessary.

At the second news conference, police showed the moments St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Cotter had described earlier through police body cameras and in-car videos. We saw for the first time what the two South Bend police officers involved in the shooting saw and what they heard from their vantage points.

Officers were initially called the morning of June 11 to the area of the East Race and LaSalle Street on reports of a man stabbing vehicles. When they arrived, Neiswender was no longer in the area, but he was later found in a parking lot off LaSalle Avenue and Niles Avenue — armed with a knife.

On Thursday, we learned there were three minutes from the start of the interaction between Neiswender and the officers to the shooting, which South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said is an eternity.

“The longer, the better (is) our theory, and it’s empirical on my part that the longer talking, the less something is happening,” Chief Ruszkowski said.

The officers, identified as Officer Joseph Carey and Officer Randall McMurray, asked Neiswender three times to take his hands out of his pockets and put them on the wall. The video shows Neiswender refusing to be cuffed and threatening to kill the officers.

Officer McMurray tried to tase Neiswender in an attempt to disarm and detain him, but police say he was wearing six layers of clothing, which likely prevented the taser from working properly because the prongs did not penetrate his skin.

Neiswender is then shown in the video picking his knife up from the ground. He then steps toward the officers, prompting Officer Carey to fire his gun six times.

Neiswender was hit three times before he was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

Law enforcement emphasized during both news conferences the distances the officers were from Neiswender. Officer Carey was 15 feet away from Neiswender while McMurray was 17 feet away. This is noteworthy because Cotter said it takes a person half a second to process danger from 21 feet away, and that it takes a person about one and a half seconds to cover 21 feet.

During their analysis of the incident, South Bend police said Officer McMurray is at the fore of crisis intervention training, meaning they had the right person out there trying to de-escalate the situation for several minutes.

In the end, the situation is heartbreaking for everyone involved. Cotter and Ruszkowski both gave condolences to the Neiswender family during their press conference. It’s also been hard on the officers, as we were told they’re not doing well after the shooting.

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ThisIsButter1 (10204.00)

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