A 12-year veteran of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department is being charged in the shooting of unarmed Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Derek Copp following an investigation by the Michigan State Police.
Deputy Ryan Huizenga is being charged with the careless discharge of a weapon causing injury or death. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $2,000.
Huizenga could ultimately lose his license to perform police work in Michigan if he is convicted. He has also been placed on unpaid suspension according to media reports. Huizenga was previously on paid leave while the Michigan State Police finished their investigation. He will be arraigned next week in Hudsonville District Court.
Charges against Copp or other students living at the house have not been filed.
Source: Student Shot after Opening Blinds
Unfortunately, the results of the investigation have not been released to the public.
The Grand Rapids Press spoke with an unnamed source and gave a summary of what happened according to the investigation:
“Copp, 20, was hit once in the chest by a .40-caliber handgun bullet when he went to a glass sliding door and pulled open the blinds after police knocked, a source familiar with the investigation said.
A gun-mounted flashlight shined in his eyes, causing him to raise a hand to deflect the light.
That’s when Huizenga fired at Copp, who was not armed and not aggressive toward officers, the source said.”
The article further reports that a police officer or undercover informant purchased marijuana at the apartment.
Officers Still Looking out for their Friend
Since the shooting, there has been concern–much of it valid–that there would never be a fair investigation of the shooting and that the deputy who shot Copp would likely get away without being charged. That opinion stemmed in part from early reports indicating that the police union advised the deputy not to speak to investigators. Critics of police behavior and corruption have often pointed to the perception of a “Blue Code of Silence” where police are believed to protect each other no matter what. Various sociological studies have explored this phenomenon at length.
Even though Deputy Huizenga was charged in this case, there was an interesting bit in The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the announcement. The Press reports:
“A Press reporter seeking comment at the deputy’s home was turned away by two Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies who advised him about trespassing laws. The deputies were in uniform and in a sheriff’s cruiser.
Ottawa County Undersheriff Greg Steigenga said he was not aware of any deputies being assigned near Huizenga’s home and planned to investigate the incident.
‘It wasn’t something that was sanctioned through our department,’ he said.”
It looks like a pretty clear example of officers seeking to protect their own.
A Clear Goal for Future Protests
Now that the officer has been named and charged, hopefully additional protests will make the clear demand that the officer be removed from office and be put in jail. Additionally, the report should be made public.