When police officers in Grand Rapids, Mich., were dispatched to check on the welfare of a potentially suicidal 19-year-old man on Jan. 14, the explosive altercation ended in gunshots. Police say one of the officers felt threatened when the man pulled what appeared to be a handgun.
Though it turned out to be an unloaded BB gun, one of the three officers on the scene fired at James Spivey, hitting him in the arm and abdomen. The Grand Rapids Press has obtained audio captured on a dashboard camera that helps explain how the situation spun out of control.
Immediately following the shooting, which left the 19-year-old hospitalized for a month, officers are heard in the audio responding with concern for Spivey’s well-being. One of the officers also outlines why he felt threatened in the dramatic recording.
“It looked real. There was no orange tip. I didn’t see anything that would indicate that it was a fake gun. I believed that that that was a real, black semi-automatic gun,” he says.
The Grand Rapids Press has more details on the incident:
Before the shooting, the intensity ratcheted up quickly when Spivey became agitated during the officers’ questioning about whether he had harmed himself.
The three arriving officers – Benjamin Hawkins, Joshua Mollan and Justin Kribs – at first speak with Spivey through a closed window. An officer asks if there’s anything he can help Spivey with and if he has any weapons in the home. Spivey answers that it’s confidential and that he’s safe in his own home.
The officer tells Spivey they need him to open the door so they can see that he’s OK. The door opens and they ask to check his arms for cuts.
The man grew increasingly agitated as officers questioned him. At one point, Spivey retreated to the second floor of the apartment, prompting officers to enter the residence.
“Everything’s going to be alright, man,” one of the cops says.
“No it’s not!” Spivey screams back. He later tells the officers he’s not going to kill himself, he just wants them to leave him alone.
The situation reached its nearly fatal climax when Spivey reportedly came running down the stairs holding a BB pistol, which officers thought was a real gun.
“Gun! He’s got a gun!” an officer shouts.
“The officers retreat toward the front door, and two take cover in a bathroom. Spivey advances toward them and Kribs yells at him to drop the gun before firing three times, according to the legal opinion,” the report adds.
Police later found out he was carrying an unloaded .177-caliber CO2-powered pistol.
“You’re going to be all right, buddy,” an officer is heard telling the man.
Spivey reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder and depression and was not charged in the incident.