In re: fatal shooting at Martin Luther King Jr. park on 10-3-22
Jodi M. Hoos
The Office of the Peoria County State's Attorney has examined the evidence, exhibits, circumstances, facts, and law relative to the shooting death of Samuel Vincent Richmond on October 3, 2022. Sorting out witnesses, reviewing digital footage and processing evidence takes time. As tragic and difficult as Mr. Richmond’s untimely death may be, it appears that Mr. Richmond, although most likely not wanting to hurt anyone other than himself, acted in a manner that left officers with no choice but to use deadly force, often referred to as ‘suicide by police.’
A little after 10:00 p.m. on October 3, 2022, members of the Peoria Police Department (“PPD”) responded to 709 W. Hurlburt St. on a ShotSpotter alert. While on scene for that call officers heard a gunshot nearby. That gunshot was subsequently corroborated by a ShotSpotter alert located near the pavilion at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The pavilion is only blocks from the initial call. Other PPD officers responded to that gunshot. Around that same time, and in the same general area, a 911 call came in regarding a black male who was threatening suicide, wearing a sweatsuit and driving a gray Impala. Minutes later that same caller makes a second 911 call stating that he just talked to the suicidal male, later identified as Mr. Richmond, and that he was at the pavilion.
PPD officers encounter Mr. Richmond near the Martin Luther King Jr. Park pavilion. That encounter led to a situation where four officers fired towards Mr. Richmond, ultimately killing him. The Illinois State Police (“ISP”) were notified and took over the investigation a short time later, as is required in officer involved shooting cases. The role of the State’s Attorney is to determine whether the conduct of the officers who discharged their weapons was justified under Illinois law.
II. Summary of Facts
During the ISP investigation it was discovered that the person who called 911 was a close friend of Mr. Richmond and saw him just moments before the shooting. He described Mr. Richmond as depressed and intoxicated. Toxicology later confirmed he had a BAC 0.256. Mr. Richmond told the friend he was going to shoot himself and showed the friend a gun. The gun was described as a black handgun, possibly a Glock. He also gave the friend a handwritten note with instructions to give the note to his wife. The note was addressed “dear Lord” and included the following excerpts:
“thank you for finally allowing me to rest”
“I’m so very tired”
“I go now to my rest at peace knowing that I have done right with my time here on this earth”
“I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I kept the faith.”
Mr. Richmond then drove from the friend’s house in a gray Impala while the friend called 911. The friend again spoke to him on the phone a short time later when he was at the pavilion. The friend said Mr. Richmond fired off a round and said the next time it will be him. That is when the friend made the second 911 call.
According to police reports and body camera footage, police initially make contact with Mr. Richmond in Martin Luther King Jr. Park behind a tree. The first officer involved told him twice to “show me your hands.” He did not comply. Instead, he came out from behind the tree, raised a handgun and pointed it at the officer. The officer attempted to get out the words “hey, drop the (inaudible) gun” but was forced to fire his weapon at Mr. Richmond almost immediately. Mr. Richmond then fell forward on his knees still holding the gun.
Three other officers arrived on scene around that time who also saw him holding a gun. They repeatedly yelled “drop the gun.” These statements are corroborated by both body camera footage as well as audio footage from a nearby convenience store surveillance camera. He did not comply and according to the officers pointed the gun towards them. All four officers then fired their weapons. There was a break in firing, where officers continued to repeatedly yell “drop the gun”. He still did not comply, and the officers fired additional rounds. These statements are also supported by surveillance footage.
Once additional officers arrived, they approached Mr. Richmond who was now lying face down on the ground. Officers rolled him over to begin life saving measures. An unloaded, black .40 caliber Glock handgun was found underneath him.
The area where this shooting occurred was extremely dark with very little street lighting. Besides the four officers no other witnesses to the incident were located. Mr. Richmond’s Impala was parked near the pavilion, with the engine running and the driver’s side door open. Four fired cartridge cases were found in the car. The fired cartridge cases found in the car were fired from the Glock that was recovered from underneath Mr. Richmond.
During the investigation, ISP interviewed a witness who had spoken to Mr. Richmond a few months prior to this incident outside of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. According to the witness, he had been crying, appeared hopeless and made comments about wanting to harm himself. He said, “you’re going to hear about me.”
III. Legal Analysis
Under Illinois law, a peace officer is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm when he “reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another.” 720 ILCS 5/7-5(a). Deadly force is to be used “only when reasonably necessary in defense of human life,” under the particular circumstances of each situation. 720 ILCS 5/7-5(d). When an officer uses force, that decision “shall be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the same situation, based on the totality of the circumstances known to or perceived by the officer at the time of the decision, rather than with the benefit of hindsight, and that the totality of the circumstances shall account for occasions when officers may be forced to make quick judgments about using force.” 720 ILCS 5/7-5(f).
From the evidence presented, it is clear that the four PPD Officers were all legally justified in their use of deadly force against Mr. Richmond on October 3, 2022. Each of the officers were reasonable in their belief, based on the totality of the circumstances, that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or others. It is important to note that the calls the officers were responding to involved multiple shots that had been fired and a suicidal male. Also, all four officers were wearing full PPD uniforms and driving fully marked PPD squad cars. Mr. Richmond was close enough to the officers that he would have observed this.
Before the initial officer fired a shot, he twice yelled “show me your hands.” Mr. Richmond failed to comply with this. Instead, he came out from behind the tree, raised a gun and pointed it at the officer. A still image taken from the body camera footage depicts this. In that picture the white stripes on the arms of Mr. Richmond’s black sweat suit sleeves are visible, and the position of his arms is consistent with him pointing a raised gun at the officer. (See attached images previously released by PPD). Finding the gun located under Mr. Richmond also indicates that his gun was out.
Those actions, along with the multiple comments about suicide, the note he left and evidence that he was depressed and intoxicated at the time of the shooting all support the unfortunate conclusion that this was a ‘suicide by police’ situation. Although it is easy to conclude today that Mr. Richmond was most likely not planning on harming anyone other than himself, that night the officers did not know his intentions and reasonably feared for their lives and the lives of each other.
Therefore, upon review of the facts, it is determined that the course of conduct engaged in by the officers that resulted in the death of Samuel Vincent Richmond was justified, reasonable and necessary to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Illinois and themselves from death or great bodily harm.