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The original item was published from 8/13/2020 9:02:00 AM to 8/13/2020 9:07:30 AM.

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Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: August 13, 2020

[ARCHIVED] No Charges issued for June 15, 2020, fatal shooting on Saginaw Highway

PRESS RELEASE


No Charges issued for June 15, 2020, fatal shooting on Saginaw Highway.   

On June 15, 2020, Ronnie Romannz Holmes was shot and killed on Saginaw Highway in Eaton County’s Delta Township.  The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office immediately began an investigation into the shooting. Their investigation (2020-3073) was submitted for review by the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office on July 7, 2020.

FACTS

The following is a summary of what the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office investigation revealed:

Dispatch and 911 Calls

On June 15, 2020, at 8:24 am, Eaton County 911 received the first of more than a dozen calls reporting a male, dressed in black pants and a black hoodie style sweatshirt, with a gun on Saginaw Highway, just west of Creyts Road, in Delta Township.  Multiple callers reported that the male was walking in and out of traffic on Saginaw Highway, stepping in front of cars, and firing a gun into the air.  Various callers advised that the male was walking westbound on Saginaw and that he was passing Champion Chrysler. 

A 911 caller described that the male stopped a black Camero that was eastbound on Saginaw and pointed the gun at the occupants of the Camero.  After the Camero drove away the male continued walking westbound in the middle of the road and then appeared to have been hit by a car.

Another 911 caller who was delivering vehicles to Champion Chrysler advised that the male jumped in front of his car hauler, brandish a handgun, and began threatening him.  An additional 911 caller reported that the male had stopped her car and hit her car with his head. 

Initial Scene Observations

Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Delta Patrol units were dispatched to the area and arrived on scene at approximately 8:27am.  Upon arrival, deputies located a Ford Escape parked in the left lane of eastbound Saginaw Highway just west of Starkweather Drive. Deputies located a male standing next to the Escape and a second male, identified as Ronnie Holmes laying in the left lane of westbound Saginaw Highway.  Deputies quickly identified that Holmes appeared to have been shot multiple times and requested EMS.  Delta Township Fire Department EMS arrived moments later and determined that Holmes was deceased. He was pronounced dead at 8:36am.

When approaching Holmes, deputies located a silver and black semi-automatic .380 handgun in the roadway near Holmes.  Holmes was dressed in a pair of black pants and was wearing a black hoodie with print on the front of it.

The male that was standing next to the Ford Escape was detained by deputies and secured at the scene.  He was identified as Austin Curry.  While being secured Curry advised that Holmes had a pointed a gun at him, and implied that he had shot Holmes. He told deputies that he had placed it on the roof of the Escape after the incident. That firearm, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, was recovered from the roof of the Escape. In securing the firearm, it was observed that the driver’s side front window was shattered out and that glass was laying in the roadway adjacent to the Escape.

Interview with Curry

In an interview after the incident, Austin Curry admitted to shooting Holmes after Holmes pointed a handgun at him while standing in front of his vehicle.  Curry described that Holmes stepped in front of him as he was driving eastbound on Saginaw Highway, causing him to have to stop his vehicle.  As Curry stopped his vehicle he observed Holmes point a gun at him while muttering something. Curry indicated that Holmes then walked to the driver’s side window of the vehicle and that Holmes was still pointing the gun at him. 

Curry advised that he was a concealed pistol license holder and that he had a handgun in his glovebox.  He advised that as Holmes was stepping towards the driver’s side window, that he retrieved his 9mm pistol from the glovebox. Curry described that he believed the pistol contained eleven (11) rounds, but wasn’t certain. He also advised that there was a 2nd magazine with an additional ten (10) rounds of 9mm ammunition in the glovebox.

Curry described that Holmes was near the vehicle and pointing his pistol in the direction of the vehicle, and directly at him.  Curry described at that moment he feared for his life and believe that he had to act to protect himself.  Having retrieved his own pistol, Curry began firing his pistol through the closed window; discharging the weapon until it was empty.  He described that Holmes recoiled and fell to the ground. Curry indicated that he then reloaded his gun with the spare magazine, exited the vehicle, but never fired any additional rounds.  Upon becoming aware that law enforcement was arriving on the scene, Curry placed his weapon on the roof of his vehicle and followed the commands of the deputies to lay on the ground.

Witness Interviews

During the course of the investigation, detectives and deputies from the Sheriff’s Office conducted more than twenty-five (25) interviews. More than a dozen of the witnesses describe seeing Holmes in the roadway shooting a handgun and stopping traffic.  

Shane McGrady advised that he was delivering cars at Champion Chrysler when he observed Holmes near the dealership.  He then encountered Holmes standing in the westbound lanes of Saginaw Highway as McGrady was leaving the dealership.  McGrady advised that Holmes was pointing at him, and that McGrady stopped his commercial vehicle, rolled the window down, and spoke with Holmes.  During the conversation Holmes displayed a handgun, began ranting, and told McGrady that he was protesting against people like McGrady that were taking food from his family. Holmes told McGrady multiple times that he did not want McGrady to be scared, but that he was armed.  McGrady advised that he waited for Holmes to turn away from him before driving away and calling 911.

Kyle Gross was working at Champion Chrysler on a lift painting the front of the building near the roof when he observed the interaction between Holmes and McGrady occur. Gross descried that he heard some yelling and turned to find Holmes standing near the driver’s door of the truck on Saginaw. Holmes appeared upset and was yelling at McGrady. As McGrady pulled his vehicle away, Gross observed Holmes punch the vehicle a couple times and then start walking west in the middle of Saginaw Hwy.  As Holmes was walking, Gross observed Holmes raise his hands with a gun in the right hand, and fire a shot.  Gross described that Holmes would fire a round into the air, walk a bit more and shoot again. As Holmes was walking, he was stepping into the traffic lane and causing vehicles to stop. Gross advised that as Holmes continued walking westbound, that he then climbed on to the roof of the building in hopes of being able to get a better view.  As he was doing so, he heard multiple gunshots and observed a body lying in the roadway. He advised the deputies arrived immediately afterwards.

Amber Bengal was interviewed and advised that she was driving eastbound on Saginaw Highway when Holmes stepped in front of her vehicle.  Bengal described that she had to stop her vehicle and observed Holmes to have a handgun in his right hand.  She indicated that Holmes was staring at her and fired the gun into the air. 

Brian Moras was interviewed and advised that he observed Holmes step in front of a dark colored Camaro, forcing the vehicle to stop.  Moras described that Holmes then began to beat on the hood of the vehicle before the driver was able to get around Holmes and flee the scene. Moras then observed Holmes step in front of a small SUV forcing that vehicle to stop.  He described that Holmes approached that SUV and he heard multiple gunshots and saw Holmes fall to the ground.

Brandon Ball described that he was driving west on Saginaw when he observed Holmes running in and out of traffic. He advised that it appeared that Holmes was trying to get hit by a passing car.  Ball stopped his vehicle after he passed Holmes and observed Holmes approach a vehicle and then fall as if the vehicle had struck him.  Ball approached the scene on foot and observed the driver of the vehicle (Curry) exiting his vehicle with his hands up holding a handgun. He described that Curry was excited and uttered “why did you do that, I didn’t want to shoot you”.

Terry Klotz advised that he observed Holmes in the roadway stepping in and out of traffic.  He turned around to check on Holmes and observed him approaching the driver’s side window of Curry’s vehicle. He described that Holmes walked right up to Curry’s window and was making a motion as if he was raising a handgun from his waist.  Klotz described that he was driving eastbound on Saginaw at the time and pulled alongside the passenger side of Curry’s stopped vehicle.  Klotz observed Curry discharge his handgun through the closed window striking Holmes. 

Scene Investigation

While investigating the incident, the Sheriff’s Office located and collected numerous pieces of physical evidence from Saginaw Highway.  Deputies recovered a Jiminez Arms .380 caliber handgun from the roadway directly adjacent to Holmes.  The pistol was silver and black in color, and matched the description given by several witnesses of the gun that Holmes was observed firing into the air.  Examination of the weapon revealed that it was empty at the time it was recovered. In addition, Deputies located six (6) .380 caliber shell casings scattered along Saginaw Highway in the area of Starkweather Drive. 

The front driver’s side window of Curry’s vehicle was found shattered out with glass located both on the pavement directly adjacent to the vehicle and inside the vehicle. The glovebox of the vehicle was open and a holster and an empty magazine for Curry’s 9mm pistol were located in the passenger seat.  Deputies recovered nine (9) 9mm shell casings from inside the passenger compartment of Curry’s vehicle, along with pieces of glass from the window. Curry’s 9mm pistol was located on the roof of his vehicle.  When located, the pistol was loaded with a round chambered.

Autopsy Report

Dr. Michael Markey, MD, of Sparrow Hospital, conducted a Forensic Postmortem Examination on Ronnie Holmes.  Dr. Markey is the medical examiner for Eaton County and the Medical Director of the Sparrow Hospital Forensic Pathology Department.

During the examination, Dr. Markey identified nine (9) gunshot wounds in Holmes body.  Dr. Markey was unable to determine which order the gunshots occurred in, but was able to determine a wound path, definitively, for eight of the nine wounds.  There were two gunshot wounds to the left side of Holmes chest that both had a front to back trajectory. There was an additional gunshot wound to Holmes’ upper left abdomen where the entrance and exit wounds are observed on the abdomen. The remaining six wounds were to Holmes left ear lobe, right side of the neck, left upper arm, left elbow, left buttock, right upper arm.  In each of those wounds, Dr. Markey concluded that it was probable or likely that the trajectory of the bullet was from back to front.

Based on the examination, Dr. Markey concluded that Ronnie Holmes died of multiple gunshot wounds.  He classified the death as a homicide from the perspective of the medical examiner. In the medical context, a homicide is defined as the death of a person that is directly caused by the intentional actions of another person. The classification is not a legal determination regarding the circumstances of the death.

Legal Standard

The primary issue in this case is whether Austin Curry acted in a legal manner during his interaction with Ronnie Holmes, primarily when he used deadly force by discharging his firearm. If Curry acted pursuant to the laws of the United States and the State of Michigan, then he acted in a legal manner.

Michigan law gives a person the right to use force or even take a life to defend himself under certain circumstances.  If a person uses force within our state’s definition of self-defense, their actions are justified under the law, and they are not guilty of a crime.[1]  

Shooting a gun in self-defense requires an honest and reasonable belief by the individual that he is in danger of being killed or seriously injured.  If that person’s belief was honest and reasonable, he could act immediately to defend himself, even if it turned out later that he was wrong about the level of danger.[2]  The use of deadly force in self-defense is justified where the actor (1) is not the aggressor,  (2) acts under an honest and reasonable belief that he is in danger of death or great bodily harm, (3) retreats from the scene if possible, and (4) the only recourse lay in repelling the attack by the use of deadly force.[3] 

The Supreme Court has clarified that “a person is never required to retreat from a sudden, fierce and violent attack; nor is he required to retreat from an attacker who he reasonably believes is about to use a deadly weapon.”[4] Further, the Self-Defense Act of 2006 abrogated the duty to retreat under most circumstances. MCL 780.972 states:


“an individual who is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he uses deadly force may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if … the individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or another individual...” 


Even under the Self-Defense Act, however, self-defense is not justified simply on a belief that deadly force is needed to repel an attack. Rather, the actor’s belief must be both honest and reasonable based on the facts and circumstances known to the actor at the time of the use of force.[5]  That belief does not, however, have to be correct in hindsight or when examined in light of facts not known to the actor. 


Decision not to charge  

Based on a thorough review of the facts and evidence in this case, and in light of the law surrounding self-defense, The Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has concluded that Austin Curry’s actions in shooting and killing Ronnie Holmes constitute self-defense.

In the seconds leading up to Curry’s decision to use deadly force, Holmes stepped in front of Curry’s car causing Curry to have to bring his vehicle to a complete stop. Holmes then pointed a firearm directly at Curry and proceeded to walk closer to Curry’s vehicle and then around the driver’s side of the vehicle.  With the weapon still pointed at Curry, Holmes approached the driver’s side window and Curry made the decision to use his weapon in self-defense. 

The decision to use deadly force in self-defense was justified as Curry was not the aggressor in the situation and he reasonably believed that he was in danger of death or great bodily harm. As the investigation revealed, Holmes had been stepping in front of cars, pointing his gun at vehicles, and discharging the weapon, in the moments leading up to the encounter with Curry. Holmes then continued that pattern of behavior when he stepped in front of Curry’s vehicle, forcing him to stop, and then pointed his handgun directly at Curry.  At that point, Holmes was the aggressor and committing an assault on Curry.

While it is true that Holmes pistol was found to be empty, that fact does not change the analysis of whether Curry reasonably believed he was in danger. Nothing from the appearance of the pistol provided insight that the gun was no longer immediately capable of shooting anyone.  Rather, the pistol was recovered with the slide forward, and Deputies only determined that it was empty after manually clearing the weapon.

In addition, the number of times that Holmes was shot does not change the analysis.  While Holmes is believed to have been struck nine (9) times, those shots were in rapid succession.  Curry described that once he began to discharge his weapon, that he fired it until it was empty.  Witnesses further describe hearing a rapid burst of gunshots and then seeing Holmes fall to the ground. The witness observations and Curry statements describe an incident that took just a couple of seconds.  

Further, we are cognizant of the fact that more than half of the gunshot wounds sustained by Holmes appear to have a back to front trajectory. The investigation revealed that at the time Curry began to discharge his weapon Holmes was close enough to his vehicle that at least one witness believed that he had been struck by Curry’s vehicle. Witnesses also describe seeing Holmes approaching the driver’s side of Curry’s vehicle when the burst of gunshots occurred.  Those same witnesses observed only one burst of shots, observed Holmes fall to the ground, and then observed Curry exit his vehicle. There is no indication that Curry paused while firing his weapon, nor is there any evidence that Holmes was retreating from the interaction at the time that Curry made the decision to shoot.  The two wounds in Holmes’ upper left chest, along with the grazing wound to the abdomen reasonably suggest that the Curry’s first two shots hit Holmes in the chest, and the remaining shots are the result of Holmes spinning or turning after the initial gunshots.

Conclusion 

Staring at a gun that Holmes was pointing towards him, Austin Curry was forced to make a split-second decision.  He determined that his life was in danger, and that his use of deadly force was necessary to protect his life. In light of all of the facts and circumstance, it was reasonable in that moment for Curry to conclude that he was in danger of death or great bodily harm and that Holmes was about to use a deadly weapon.  Further, even if we contemplated authorizing charges against Curry relating to Holmes death, we would not be able to overcome our burden to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that Curry did not act in self-defense. Therefore, his use of deadly force was lawful self-defense, and no charges will be authorized.

 

  

[1]              Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 2nd 7.15(1).

   

[2]              CJI2d 7.15(3); People v Riddle, 467 Mich 116, 119 (2002).

   

[3]              People v Heflin, 434 Mich 482, 502-503, 509 (1990).

   

[4]              Riddle, supra, at 119.  

   

[5]              Helflin, supra.

   



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