Starke County Prosecutor Leslie Baker released the determination on the officer involved shooting that took place on January 1st, 2021 at Koontz Lake. Officers from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department killed the suspect after he refused to obey their commands.
Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Deputy Andrew Wozniak of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department was traveling westbound on US 30 near Pioneer Drive. He observed a vehicle traveling southbound through the intersection of US 30 and Pioneer Drive without stopping.
Deputy Wozniak attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the suspect vehicle continued to drive, and a pursuit commenced. The vehicle was traveling southbound on Pioneer Drive. The suspect attempted to run Deputy Wozniak’s vehicle off the road while dangerously turning around to travel northbound on Pioneer Drive. The vehicle made a U-turn, and then came dangerously close to colliding with the rear of the police car.
Plymouth Police Officer Paul Stamper was in the general area at the time of the pursuit. Officer Stamper drove southbound on Pioneer Drive and pulled over to the west side of the road. The vehicle then swerved at Officer Stamper, nearly striking his commission. The vehicle continued north on Pioneer Drive and then west on US 30. Deputy Wozniak and Officer Stamper pursued the vehicle westbound on US 30. The speed of the vehicle was very erratic.
As the pursuit moved west on US 30, Patrolman Stuart Krynock of the Plymouth Police Department and Deputy Blake Bennett of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department were able to catch up to the pursuit on US 30 near the Yogi Bear Campground. The vehicle continued to travel dangerously into Starke County, crossing into the median and then over into the eastbound lanes while still traveling west. The vehicle then crossed over the median and returned to the westbound lanes. The vehicle returned to the westbound lanes and then traveled north on County Road 1100 East. At that point officers observed that the driver threw an unknown object out of the window.
The officers followed the vehicle northbound on County Road 1100 East to the sound end of Koontz Lake, where the vehicle turned eastbound. Officers continued to follow the vehicle east along the south end of the lake. The vehicle continued east on a “dead end” and very narrow road near the intersection of South Street and Anderson Road. The road was about one-lane in a densely populated area with houses remarkably close to the narrow road as well as close together.
The vehicle drove through a front yard and came to the end of the narrow, dead-end road. It made a U-Turn, turning around and facing the officers. The vehicle then “gunned it” and came “straight at” Officer Stamper’s vehicle. At this point, Officer Stamper was still inside his vehicle, but was attempting to exit.
Deputy Bennett immediately exited his patrol vehicle after Officer Stamper’s police car was struck. The vehicle was then in reverse and hit the corner of Deputy Bennett’s vehicle. The vehicle also “slammed” into the passenger side of Officer Krynock’s vehicle.
Deputy Bennett then drew his weapon as the vehicle backed up. Both Deputy Bennett and Deputy Prater quickly approached the vehicle, and both Deputies observed the hand of the driver move toward the shifter to place the vehicle back in drive. Both Deputies also heard the “revving” of the vehicle’s engine.
Deputy Prater drew his weapon and issued verbal commands for the driver to turn off his vehicle. Deputy Bennett also drew his weapon and approached the driver’s side of the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle did not cooperate and continued “revving” his engine. Both Deputy Prater and Deputy Bennett fired their service weapons at the vehicle’s driver simultaneously.
After firing their service weapons, Deputy Bennett called for medics. The driver suffered from a gunshot wound to the head as well as a wound on the upper right shoulder.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Jeffrey Marvin and he was later pronounced deceased at the hospital. After an autopsy and toxicology were completed, it was determined that Mr. Marvin had alcohol, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and cannabinoids in his system at his time of death. The cause of Mr. Marvin’s death was from gunshot wounds.
Deputy Bennett and Deputy Prater both discharged their service weapons and shot Jeffrey Marvin. There is, however, substantial evidence to suggest that Deputy Bennett and Deputy Prater acted in self-defense. To refute a claim of self-defense, the State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officers’ fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death by Mr. Marvin was either objectively unreasonable or insincere. Based upon the results of the investigation as outlined above, there is insufficient evidence to refute either the officer’s claim of subjective fear or the objective reasonableness of that fear.
Based upon the evidence gathered during this investigation into the actions of Deputy Bennett and Deputy Prater, both officers were legally justified under Indiana’s self-defense law and no criminal charges shall be filed against Deputy Bennett or Deputy Prater.