SPD Chief on Officer-Involved Shooting: Fleeing Man Was Unarmed

By KOLR10 News

Published 05/12 2014 12:20PM

Updated 07/17 2014 05:28PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A criminal investigation has begun into an officer-involved shooting in Springfield Friday.  Police Chief Paul Williams identifies the officer as Jason Shuck. 

Police Chief Paul Williams held a news conference during the noon hour.  Two investigations are underway into the way Shuck handled a call about a panhandler near Bennett and Glenstone.   An internal investigation into whether department policies were followed, and a criminal investigation into the shooting are both being conducted.  Read the department's Use of Force policy, attached above.

Eric David Butts, 26, of Springfield, was shot as he ran from Shuck.  Williams says there is no indication Butts was armed at any time during the encounter with Shuck.
Butts was on probation and parole for burglary.  He also has a second-degree felony burglary warrant from Greene County and a municipal traffic warrant from Springfield.

Shuck, an 11 year veteran of the department, was originally responding to an anonymous 911 call about a panhandler.  The caller said they knew the panhandler and believed he was wanted for warrants.

"The officer arrived on scene shortly thereafter and made contact with the individual and the individual ran," says Major Kirk Manlove with the Springfield Police Department.  "The officer discharged his weapon.  At this point, we are treating this as an officer involved shooting."

It's still not clear why the shot was fired.

Williams told reporters it is "concerning" that Butts was not in any way armed.  He promised the incident will be investigated thoroughly.

SPD To Handle Both Criminal Probe, Internal Investigation

Williams said his department will handle both investigations that will determine the outcome of the shooting.

"I, as the chief, like to gather all my facts while I make that determination one way or the other," Williams said.

Both a criminal probe and an internal investigation will be handled without an outside agency.

"It's our policy and practice to conduct our own investigations. A lot of smaller agencies don't have that ability, we do," Williams said.

On lethal force, Springfield police's policy says "an employee may use lethal force only when he reasonably believes the action is in defense of human life ...." It goes on to say, "(Or) immediate danger of serious physical injury or death."

Fiance: Butts Expected To 'Make Full Recovery'

Ashley Cook, who is engaged to Butts, said she wants to learn the full story as well.

"He's expected to be OK, he should have a full recovery."

Cook said panhandling for a pack of cigarettes likely led to a call for police.

"Whoever it was must've knew who he was and that he was in probation and parole and that he had a warrant."

Butts' history with Springfield Police is mostly made up of neighborhood burglary accusations.

Cook said she can't fathom what led to gunshots.

"He didn't have any weapons. The only weapons he had were pocket knives and they're all accounted for."

Cook said she and family members have not seen Butt because he is in protective custody while he receives medical treatment, which is standard procedure.

She said she expects to visit him with a lawyer when he is transferred to Greene County Jail. She said she is considering a lawsuit.

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