SOUTH BEND — Northern Indiana police officers won't be charged in the fatal shooting of a Black man because authorities determined they feared for their lives when he brandished what turned out of be a fake handgun during a tense standoff.
The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office said Dante Kittrell's shooting was ruled a “justifiable homicide” under state law and the South Bend officers who shot him won't face criminal charges.
Kittrell, 51, was shot July 29 as he was reportedly dealing with mental illness and had been threatening to commit suicide near an elementary school in the northern Indiana city.
During a police standoff, he pulled from his pocket what appeared to be a handgun but which was in fact an airsoft gun fashioned to appear like a Glock handgun and pointed it in the air and at the ground as officers ducked behind their vehicles, authorities said Wednesday in their report.
After a SWAT truck drove near the area where Kittrell was standing, he “quickly pointed the apparent handgun at officers who were accompanying the negotiator,” prompting “several officers" to open fire, it states.
Kittrell died after being struck in the head, torso and hip.
“The Prosecutor’s Office found no evidence that the officers knew or could have known that the apparent firearm that Mr. Kittrell pointed at the police was not a real handgun,” the report states.
After Kittrell’s death, community groups called for mental health clinicians, not police, to respond to mental health calls.