By Annette Christie
Prosecutor verifies internal investigation finding no wrong-doing on part of Berrien County Sheriff’s Deputies
Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic has issued his findings on the death of three individuals involved in a vehicle accident as they attempted to flee from the Berrien Sheriff’s Office.
Police became involved in the situation that occurred on April 15, 2018 when county dispatch contacted patrol officers regarding a break-in at the Black Arsenal Gun Shop on Kimmel Street in Stevensville shortly after 5:00 a.m. It was believed that firearms were stolen. A description of a tan 4-door SUV was given as a suspect vehicle.
A Berrien County Sheriff’s deputy observed a vehicle matching that description on eastbound I-94. After confirming that the vehicle had a local registered owner, a traffic stop was initiated. The suspect vehicle pulled over after the patrol car’s emergency lights were activated just prior to reaching the M-139 exit ramp (Exit 28).
Shortly after both vehicles stopped, the suspect vehicle fled and exited at M-139, by-passed another Berrien County Sheriff’s deputy squad car, and proceeded southbound on M-139. With the first squad car in the lead with siren and lights activated, speed escalated. The lead deputy slowed at the intersection of M-139 and Miner’s Road as the traffic signal was red for southbound traffic. The suspect vehicle, however, proceeded through the red light. The deputy was able to catch up to the suspect vehicle reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour. The deputy kept a distance to keep the vehicle visible, but did not take action in an attempt to physically stop the vehicle at that high speed. After passing a northbound semi-tractor trailer, the suspect vehicle swerved slightly, left the roadway and crashed into a tree. Pre-crash data of the fleeing vehicle recorded speed seconds before the impact to be as high as 106 miles per hour.
The two front seat occupants, driver Hjamahri Fuller, 20 and passenger, Davion Patton, 17 and one back seat occupant, Allan Velox, 17 were pronounced dead at the scene. The other back seat occupant, Anton Morgan, 17 was transported for treatment. All of the individuals were from Benton Harbor.
Found at the scene were nine firearms reported to be missing from the Black Arsenal Gun Shop.
Sepic concluded that the deputies’ effort to maintain sight of the suspect vehicle, the occupants which likely had stolen a number of firearms, was entirely appropriate. “There was no violation of a criminal law by the deputies who gave chase; therefore, no criminal charges will be authorized relating to the chase,” Sepic said. The investigation regarding Morgan, who is still hospitalized in intensive care in Grand Rapids, is still pending.
Body discovered at Rocky Gap County Park
A man reported missing on April 10, when he failed to return home from Brian’s Marina in St. Joseph, has been found.
On April 27, 2018 at 9:20 a.m., the Benton Township Police Department responded to Rocky Gap County Park on the report of a body that washed up near the shoreline. Upon further investigation the deceased was identified as Ralph Ford of White Pigeon, Michigan, and the missing man.
The body was transported to Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph by Medic 1. At this time there is no evidence of foul play.
9-1-1 Dispatcher of the Year Awards
At the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Thursday, April 12, 2018, held at the Berrien County Administration Building, the 9-1-1 Dispatcher of the Year Awards were presented. There were six dispatchers nominated for their extra ordinary efforts and abilities while dispatching 9-1-1 calls.
The nominees were Ryan Lucker, Kristina Burks, Lanny Duffel, and Curtis Howard of the Berrien County Consolidated Dispatch, and Eric Ruth and Nicole Murdock of the Niles City Dispatch.
The Dispatcher of the Year Awards were presented by Chikaming Township Police Chief and 911 Advisory Committee Chairman Todd Taylor.
This year, two dispatchers were selected to be recognized as Berrien County Dispatcher of the Year; Eric Ruth (Niles Dispatch) and Lanny Duffel (Berrien County Dispatch).
Ruth is credited for his calm and well-controlled execution of a pursuit involving a stolen motorcycle. The suspect crashed, and radio contact between the officer and dispatch was lost for a time, while the suspect and another individual (suspect’s brother) assaulted the officer. Ruth coordinated other police units for back-up and alerted the duty supervisor. Two good samaritans came to the aid of the officer and freed him from the grasp of the attackers. Back-up officers arrived on scene, the officer was able to gain control of the suspects, and take them into custody without further incident. Duffel is valued by his peers for his reliability in skillfully and effectively processing countless emergency calls “within the trenches.” He possesses an excellent work ethic applied with a great sense of humor. His friendly and professional demeanor aids him as he interacts with panicked callers, or with the team to mobilize emergency responders. He is consistently thinking on how to improve critical information sharing during operations.
In commemoration of 9-1-1 Week, Director Dave Agens provided information about free Public Safety Apps available in Berrien County. Information about the apps is also available on the Berrien County website, www.berriencounty.org.
Smart911- On this application, citizens can build their own private/household profile to share only with public safety personnel for when they call 911. It is nationwide and will go anywhere the mobile phone goes. Smart911 provides information to dispatchers that citizens may not be able to provide during the time of a stressful 911 call.
RAVEFacility – On this application a business can build a facility profile for their organization that will provide public safety personnel with important location directions, facility contacts, and hazardous materials lists, even when 911 is called by a mobile device in the facility.
BWARN! – Citizens can register to receive priority notifications regarding the Berrien County locations that a citizen may be most interested in during a local emergency and can pre-register for special needs services during a disast