ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. (WJBK) - The Macomb County Sheriff's Office has determined deadly force was justified earlier this month in a shooting outside a baby shower in St. Clair Shores that left a 29-year-old man and a canine officer dead.
Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said at a press conference Wednesday morning that their investigation has been closed and the officers' actions were deemed justifiable, after investigators looked through audio and video tapes and spoke to several witnesses.
The shooting happened on Nov. 3, 2018 outside Lakeland Manor Banquet Hall on Harper Avenue. Dozens of people were gathered there for a baby shower, in which the suspect Theoddeus Gray was the father-to-be.
Wickersham said they received a confidential tip from the FBI that Gray was expecting a fight or confrontation of sorts during the shower. Wickersham said Gray was at the shower with a weapon, and that multiple other guests were seen on video in possession of weapons. Wickersham said a fully-loaded AK-47 was also recovered from the party, after the fact.
At one point during the shower, Gray went outside with his gun and a large crowd had formed. A staff member at the hall called 911.
When St. Clair Shores police got on scene, they identified the suspect from the 911 call as Gray and gave him commands to stop and drop the gun. He began to run away. Wickersham said four St. Clair Shores officers ran after him, along with police dog Axe.
Wickersham said as Gray was running, he took his gun from his waistband and fired one shot at the direction of the officers. The officers then drew their weapons and returned fire. Dozens of rounds were fired and Gray eventually dropped the gun and fell to the ground. First aid was rendered and paramedics were called. Gray was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Wickersham said Gray had 20 more rounds in his gun, an FN57, but it jammed after he fired that initial round at the officers. He said 48 shots were then fired by five St. Clair Shores officers.
"The officers didn't react because the dog was shot - the officers reacted because they were being shot upon," Wickersham stressed, saying that's what the focus should be.
Wickersham said the autopsy concluded Gray was hit six times: once in the head, left back, left arm, left thigh, right thigh, and right food. Wickersham said he had no puncture marks from a canine on his body.
Axe's autopsy showed several fragments but Wickersham said they have not yet received ballistic information yet so it's still unclear at this time who shot the dog. St. Clair Shores Police Chief said at the press conference he believes it's clear that Gray's bullet struck Axe but knew the sheriff's investigation didn't conclude that. Wickersham said, though, that their investigation findings wouldn't change regardless of the results of the ballistics test.
Wickersham said the conclusion of this investigation is that the deadly force used by the St. Clair Shores officer was justified. He added that their office has reached out to Gray's family, who has obtained an attorney, several times for their side of the story but said they have not cooperated or responded.
The St. Clair Shores officers involved are expected to return to full-time duty soon. The sheriff's office is not releasing their names due to threats the department has been receiving.