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State police investigate second police shooting

BY Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER — Indiana State Police (ISP) are investigating a fatal police shooting that reportedly took place outside the Eel River Inn Tuesday evening.

The results of a preliminary investigation released to the media on Tuesday indicate the shooting reportedly took place after officers from the North Manchester Police Department (NMPD) pulled over a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Michael Kline, 40, of North Manchester, around 5:58 p.m. Tuesday.

Kline parked the truck outside of the Eel River Inn, 1601 Ind. 114, when State Police say an officer “allegedly fired gunshots at Kline.” The officer involved was identified by NMPD Chief Jim Kirk as Parker Stouffer.

State Police say no officers were injured, but Kline died of gunshot wounds later that evening.

“Like I said, it is a tragedy. The whole thing is a tragedy,” North Manchester Police Department Captain Jim Kirk said on Wednesday. “The main thing is it wasn’t anything – it didn’t end up like Boone County, you know. That would have been a bad situation, too. It’s one of those things where an officer never wants to have to do – be in that situation – but it’s just a tragedy.”

Boone County Sheriff’s Department deputy Jacob Pickett recently died from gunshot wounds after a suspect shot him in the head during a foot chase through Lebano, according to reports from the Associated Press.

Kirk says Stouffer initiated the traffic stop around 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Fellow NMPD officers Issac Adams and Sgt. Nate Birch pulled over to help Stouffer, when Kirk says Kline reportedly drew a gun from his waist and pointed it at the officers.

After Kline was shot, Kirk says officers and first responders administered CPR.

Stouffer has been placed on paid administrative leave for at least two days, per NMPD policy.

Body camera footage captured Tuesday’s incident, Kirk confirmed to the Plain Dealer on Wednesday.

“Of course with body cams, you’re moving all over the place, but all sound and most of it is on there,” he explained.

Kirk says his officers underwent FATS training three weeks ago at the Heartland Career Center. FATS training is a tactical weapons training that uses life-size scenarios projected on a screen, where officers are put in different situations where they have to make split-second decisions involving use of force.

“Our departments in the county are able to use that and we’ve done that every year on different systems,” Kirk said. “You use real guns, in this training, and it shows you exactly where you shoot.”

About two months ago, the NMPD switched from 40-caliber handguns to 9mm handguns. Kirk says all NMPD officers have completed qualifications for their new firearms at the shooting range.

Kirk says the training NMPD officers receive is adequate and helpful for incidents where use of force is necessary.

“The more training you have the better you are, and we do firearms training at least between eight and ten times a year,” he said.

The NMPD does not have written policy that indicates when officers can discharge their weapon, but the department’s policy on officer-involved shootings does dictate what procedures must take place following the death or injury of a suspect, according to NMPD policy.

Stouffer will be given an attorney and the investigative team will take the gun and remaining ammunition. Kirk can request the officer be evaluated by physicians or psychiatrists to indicate the emotional or physical fitness of involved officers, according to NMPD policy.

This is the second fatal police shooting to take place in Wabash County this year.

On Feb. 14, three officers with the Wabash County Sheriff’s Department and an officer with the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department reportedly fired gunshots at Travis D. Tucker, 29, of Kokomo, who was found in a pickup truck in a field near Urbana. State Police are still investigating that incident, but preliminary findings indicate that Tucker may have been armed with a shotgun, according to statements released from ISP last month.

State Police say Tucker was a suspect in a burglary that reportedly took place in Huntington, but few other details surrounding the alleged burglary or circumstances that led to the shooting have been released.

Wabash County Prosecutor William Hartley will review the findings in both cases and determine whether or not to file charges.