ELKHART — Three Elkhart police officer who were involved in a the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old man will not face a grand jury after the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office determined their actions were a reasonable use of force.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said in a statement Monday, Oct. 21, that his office will not convene a grand jury to examine evidence in the shooting of Jaime Benavidez on Sept. 1 in the 300 block of West Lusher Avenue.
An investigation conducted by the Indiana State Police included a forensic autopsy, ballistics testing and statements from several witnesses, and was submitted to the prosecutor’s office Oct. 10.
During its investigation, the prosecutor’s office found that Benavidez did possess a handgun which he used in a threatening manner toward police. It said Benavidez was also “substantially under the influence of a controlled substance and alcohol at the time of his actions.”
The prosecutor’s office also determined that Benavidez’s actions threatened the safety and security of the community.
“The death of any human being at the hands of another person is rarely without significant impact upon others,” Hill said. “However, there are occasions where the safety and security of the community as a whole justify the use of deadly force.”
In the statement, Hill also revealed more details about the incident that led to the fatal shooting.
According to the press release, a person called 911 the afternoon of Sept. 1, saying there were two “suspicious” individuals in the 300 block of West Lusher Avenue.
A few minutes later, another call was made from a person in the 300 block of West Hubbard Avenue, reporting a white male and a Hispanic male were trying to force their way into a neighbor’s house and that they had a gun.
Several officers responded to the area in reference to a burglary in progress.
According to the press release, the house Benavidez and the other man were entering was the home of a family member and Benavidez was not attempting to commit a burglary.
The first two officers who arrived at the scene on Hubbard Avenue, Cpl. Jason Reed and Cpl. Scott Johnson, were attempting to secure the residence when they saw a man running out the front door of the residence and heading southwest.
Another man, later identified as Benavidez, also ran out the house, carrying a black handgun.
Reed told Benavidez to drop the gun, but Benavidez refused. According to the press release, a woman was present and standing between Reed and Benavidez, making it harder for Reed to disarm Benavidez.
Benavidez ran south through the yards of several residences from Hubbard to Lusher. Several neighbors said they saw Benavidez running through their yards while officers chased after him.
One homeowner said Benavidez actually entered his house and sat down. The homeowner saw the gun in Benavidez’s back pocket and told him to leave.
After leaving the residence on West Concord Avenue, Benavidez kept running south until he reached a house on the 300 block of West Lusher Avenue, where two residents were entering through the front door.
Benavidez tried to force his way into the residence, but the occupants inside the house forced the door close and locked it while others sent children inside down to the basement for safety.
Two residents of the house said Benavidez shot into their door as he attempted to force his way into the house.
By that time, Sgt. Karl Miller, Cpl. Bruce Anglemyer and Cpl. James Ballard took positions in front of the house with their guns pointed at Benavidez, asking him to drop his gun and to lie on the ground.
According to several witness accounts, the press release says, Benavidez raised his gun toward the officers, and in turn, all three officers fired their weapons at Benavidez until he dropped his weapon and collapsed.
Benavidez was taken to Elkhart General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Elkhart Police Department called the Indiana State Police to take over the investigation.
Hill said he decided that the actions taken by police were reasonable under the circumstances.
Benavidez’s companion, later identified as a juvenile, was caught in the 200 block of West Lusher Avenue.
the juvenile was already under the supervision of the Elkhart County Probation Department for a prior delinquent act and was on a weekend pass.
The boy will be prosecuted in juvenile court for the delinquent act of resisting law enforcement.
The three officers involved in the shooting, Miller, Anglemyer and Ballard, were on paid leave during the investigation.
Hill concluded in the press release that the officers used reasonable force under the circumstances, and that their actions did not violate Indiana law.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this story used the incorrect term to describe the temporary leave of the three officers involved in the shooting. The story has been updated and is now correct.