Decision made in Munising shooting death

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No charges will be filed against the Munising City Police officer who shot and killed a Munising man July 14. 46-year-old Timothy Mitchell died at the scene of the shooting in the Wetmore area of Alger County moments after a high speed chase from Christmas to Wetmore ended. 

Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney, Matt Wiese, was appointed as a special prosecutor by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to review the evidence in the shooting death of Timothy Mitchell in Alger County. 

Wiese says Mitchell died after being shot twice in the chest by Munising City Police Officer Justin Schlabach after the 17 mile chase through Munising that ended on Buckhorn Road.

In a Michigan State Police investigation of the incident, Officer Schlabach responded to a call to ‘be on the lookout’ for a vehicle driven by Mitchell heading from the Christmas area into Munising. A caller reported to Alger County Dispatch that Mitchell was driving while intoxicated, that he was all over the road, that he had threatened the caller, and that he had been involved in a physical altercation with another individual.

The reports say Officer Schlabach initially made contact with Mitchell in Munising where he attempted to conduct a traffic stop. In-car video of the incident reportedly shows that Mitchell stopped briefly in response to Officer Schlabach’s direction and then fled the scene at a high rate of speed, driving through Munising at speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour while disregarding stop signs. Officer Schlabach pursued Mr. Mitchell east out of Munising to the Wetmore area and then south on Highway 13 to Buckhorn Road at speeds exceeding 100
miles per hour. Wiese says the investigation showed that Officer
Schlabach backed off and pursued at a safe distance. He ultimately came upon Mitchell after it appeared that Mitchell’s vehicle had run off the road. Wiese says the evidence shows that Officer Schlabach attempted to apprehend Mitchell as the man got out of his vehicle.

In a press release, Wiese wrote, “Officer Schlabach approached Mitchell with his service pistol drawn and repeatedly told Mr. Mitchell to get on the ground. Mr. Mitchell turned and advanced towards Officer Schlabach in an aggressive manner. Officer Schlabach back stepped to keep a safe distance between himself and Mr. Mitchell while repeatedly commanding Mr. Mitchell to stop and go down to the ground. According to Officer Schlabach, Mr. Mitchell said as he continued toward the officer, “you’re going to have to f—ing shoot me.” It appears that Mr. Mitchell continued to aggressively approach Officer Schlabach despite repeated and numerous commands to stop.  Officer Schlabach reported that he feared for his life and believed that Mr. Mitchell would do anything to get away, including taking his (Officer Schlabach’s) life.”

Under Michigan law a person has the right to use force or even take a life to defend himself under certain circumstances, Wiese said.  He continued with, “If a person acts in lawful self-defense, that person’s actions are justified and he is not guilty of murder. Officer Schlabach reported that he believed that he was in danger of being killed or seriously injured by Mr. Mitchell.  Although he ultimately received back up from other Alger County law enforcement personnel, Officer Schlabach was the only law enforcement officer working the road in Alger County at the time of the incident. He was alone in a remote part of Alger County. Under the circumstances it appears that he was justified in his belief that he was in imminent danger and acted immediately to defend himself.”

Wiese says, that after a full review of the available evidence, this tragic incident resulting in the loss of life is not a criminal matter and no criminal charges will be authorized against Officer Schlabach.

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