Prosecutor: Elkhart officers 'acted reasonably' in Martin's shooting response
The Elkhart officers hailed as heroes for shooting and killing a gunman at Martin's Super Market before he could kill more people have been officially cleared of any wrongdoing, we were told at a news conference held by Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill on Thursday.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill says Cody Skipper and Jason Tripp acted reasonably when they shot Shawn Bair on January 15.
Police say Bair had already shot and killed two women, shot at a third woman, and held a store manager at gunpoint inside the East Bristol Street Martin's.
During a press conference Thursday we learned a lot of new information, but there are still so many unanswered questions.
Everyone wants to know why. Why did this happen? What was Shawn Bair's motive?Hill said that's a question he can't answer, and an answer we will probably never have.But we did learn more about a note Shawn Bair had on him when he went into that store.
"He had some suicidal tendencies and apparent mental issues and deficiencies over a period of time," said Hill. "It's really unknown as to why this particular period of time or what type of depression. That's not something I have information on."
Hill released several new details about the shooting itself.We learned Bair fired a total of eight shots inside that store: Three at Krystle Dikes and three at Rachel Godfread -- an employee and a customer who died as a result of those gunshots.Hill says Bair also fired another round at a store employee but missed.The last and final shot he fired was a self-inflicted gunshot to his head.The two officers confronted Bair in a store aisle. And according to Hill, when Bair raised his gun toward them they fired 10 rounds at him.The forensic pathologist determined Bair died from a gunshot wound to his heart - From the officers AND from that self-inflicted bullet in his head.And even though Hill cleared those two officers who he says ultimately *saved lives when they killed Bair, the prosecutor says other people in the store that night saved lives too.
"The fact that the police officers were able to get there as quickly as they did has a great deal to do with it," Hill said. "The young lady who came upon Mr. Bair after the first shotprobably wouldn't be here today... She ran...and as she ran out he took a shot at her, missed. And as she ran through she was able to help clear people out of that store. Those were other victims."Here is the full release from the prosecutor's office:Around 10:07 PM on January 15, 2014, Elkhart Police Department Officers Cpl. Cody Skipper and Cpl. Jason Tripp received a dispatch regarding a white male "active shooter" inside Martin's Supermarket with unknown victims. Officers Skipper and Tripp arrived at Martin's within three minutes and confronted an armed suspect, Sean Bair, who did not comply with officers' commands. Officers Skipper and Tripp fired a total of 10 shots including a fatal shot. After reviewing the subsequent investigation conducted by Indiana State Police, Elkhart County Prosecutor, Curtis T. Hill, Jr. has determined that the officers' actions were reasonable under the circumstances. The investigation will not be referred to a grand jury, and the Officers Skipper and Tripp will not face charges.
Around 9:30 PM on January 15, 2014, an individual dressed in a dark colored oversized coat, later identified as the suspect Sean Bair, enters the Martin's Supermarket at 3900 East Bristol Street in Elkhart. According to store video, for the next 30 minutes Bair walks around the store and appears to interact with his cell phone.
After approximately 30 minutes in the store Bair unzips his coat and takes out a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. Bair then approaches an aisle where Krystal Dikes is working stocking shelves and proceeds to fire three shots at Dikes. She is hit by two shots with one wound being fatal.
As Bair continues through the store, he is seen by other Martin's employees. As individuals flee, Bair shoots at another employee and misses. This employee proceeds to notify others of an "active shooter" as she exits the store. It is likely during this time, around 10:07 PM, the Elkhart City 911 Center receives two calls from Martin's employees reporting a white male "active shooter" inside the store with unknown victims. Within 45 seconds, Elkhart Police Department (EPD) officers are dispatched with Cpl. Cody Skipper and Cpl. Jason Tripp en route.
After shooting at the fleeing employee, Bair moves toward the eastern end of the store where Rachelle Godfread is shopping. As Godfread appears to be looking for a safe exit, Bair fires three shots. She is hit by two shots with one wound being fatal.
After shooting Godfread, Bair rounds a corner and confronts a store manager. Bair points a gun at the manager who after initially moving to run, gets down on his knees. In-store video shows Bair moving around the store manager, however there is no audio to record any conversation.
After approximately three minutes police arrival draws Bair's and the manager's attention to the front of the store. At this time the manager is able to get up and run northbound. Bair points the gun at the manager and also runs northbound but proceeds down another aisle.
Elkhart Police Department Officers Skipper and Tripp enter Martin's Supermarket armed with their issued AR-15s. While moving to locate the threat, officers encountered the store manage, just held at gunpoint, who called out to officers that the suspect had a gun and a knife.
As Officers Skipper and Tripp are searching for the threat, they encounter a white male suspect armed with a gun and a knife, later identified as Bair. As they confront Bair, Cpl. Skipper yells "EPD, show your hands" and orders him to "drop the gun". The suspect looks at the officers and raises the gun instead of dropping it. At this point Officer's Skipper and Tripp fire on the suspect and stop firing after they believe the threat has ended. Other officers from Elkhart Police Department soon arrived on scene. As the incident concluded with an Elkhart Police Department officer involved shooting, Indiana State Police (ISP) handled the investigation.
Subsequent investigation shows that Cpl. Tripp discharged 5 rounds from his weapon and Cpl. Skipper discharged 4 rounds from his weapon. An additional round was undetermined. An analysis of entrance wounds indicated Bair was hit 7 or 8 times depending on bullet fragmentation. Bair sustained two near-instantaneous, immediately fatal wounds, one discharged by one of the responding officers, and the second, self-inflicted. Later analysis concluded the bullet from the fatal wound was too deformed to identify if it was fired from Officer Skipper or Tripp's weapon.
Investigators on scene recovered a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun and a large knife near Bair's body. Bair's gun was fired a total of 8 times, 3 shots directed at Crystal Dikes, 1 at a fleeing employee, 3 shots directed at Rachelle Godfread, and a final self-inflicted shot. Toxicology reports indicated the presence of THC, indicative of marijuana use.
Subsequent investigation showed no credible evidence of familiarity between Bair and either of the victims. Investigators found Bair likely suffered from ongoing suicidal depression which went largely untreated. A review of the possessions located on Bair's person located a note which included a suicidal message.
Bair had two previous charges in Elkhart County. In late June of 2009, Bair was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. He was convicted and sentenced on October 21, 2009 to 18 months, all suspended, and 18 months on probation with some work weekends through work release. In 2010 he violated probation due to a theft charge and pleaded guilty to D Felony Theft. Bair received an 18 month sentence with 12 months suspended and additional probation. The Court also ordered treatment at Oaklawn. Bair was sent to work release, and then released on probation in January of 2011. He was satisfactorily discharged from probation in December of 2011.