Contrary to the initial police report a man shot by Rockford Police officers did not use a child as a human shield and wasn't armed when he answered the door. This goes against what the police chief first told the media at a news conference Thursday.
We were told Demetrius Bennett met officers at his home armed with a knife and holding a child as a shield. That's not what the Winnebago County Integrity Task Force said today.
"Rockford Officers met Mr. Bennett at the door and advised him of the domestic violence investigation. Mr. Bennett immediately retreated into the living room, picked up his 17-month-old child and went into the kitchen," says Lt. Kurt Cavanaugh, Winnebago County Integrity Task Force.
Thursday, around 9 a.m. Rockford Police gave a public safety statement saying Bennett had used his child as a human shield and was armed with a knife the whole time. Now the Task Force says Bennett let his 5-year-old be taken from the home, but did not want to give police his toddler. The mother of the child came inside and took him from Bennett and that's the first time Bennett grabbed a knife.
"The information that I provided with the public safety statement was information that I learned at that time from sources, law enforcement sources at that time," says Chief Chet Epperson.
"He got pepper sprayed after several attempts was asked of him to put the knife down. The child was already gone out of the residence," says Lt. Cavanaugh.
Police say the pepper spray did not seem to effect Bennett. Lt. Cavanaugh says he then covered his face with a plastic bag and lunged at police who shot and killed him.
"We do know Mr. Bennett died of multiple gun shots wounds, that's more than one and most of them are to his torso area," says Sue Fiduccia, Winnebago County Coroner.
There were four officers involved in the shooting that are currently on leave. Officer James Presley is an 8 year member of the force. Officer Ryan Marko has served for 7 years. The same for Officer Mark Danner. And Officer Nolan Walker has been on the force for 11 months. Sergeant John Hoshaw was there at the time but did not fire his weapon.
A press conference was held Friday, November 2, outlining the details of the Rockford police officer-involved shooting that claimed the life of a 31-year-old man.
The incident began just before 6:00 a.m. Thursday, November 1, with a woman requesting police assistance in getting her belongings out of at home at 1811 Montague after a domestic dispute. Upon arrival to the home, Demetrius Bennett met officers at the door and refused them entry.
Bennett then retreated into the kitchen of the home, picking up a 17-month-old child. Officers asking Bennett to put the child down, but he refused. Contrary to initial reports, Bennett did not use the child as a human shield. The child's mother, the woman who made the initial complaint, convinced Bennett to hand her the child, and she, along with another 5-year-old child, took the 17-month-old and left the home.
After Bennett handed over the child to its mother, police say he grabbed a steak knife and brandished it at officers. Officers repeatedly asked Bennett to drop the knife, but they say he refused. The sergeant on the scene then used pepper spray on Bennett, who simply wiped it off. Investigators say Bennett then put a plastic bag over his head to shield any additional spray, and charged at officers with the knife.
The four officers on scene, James Presley, Ryan Marko, Mark Danner, and Nolan Walker, all fired on Bennett, who died a short time later at the scene. According to Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia, Bennett suffered multiple gunshot wounds, mostly to his torso, but also to his extremities.
The case is now in the hands of the Winnebago County Integrity Task Force. When their investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office who will decide whether or not to turn it over to a grand jury.
The four officers involved are on administrative leave, pending the outcome of both a criminal investigation into the shooting and an administrative investigation into their actions.
You can watch the press conference in its entirety by clicking the video attached to this story.
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