Conflicting Reports Surrounding Shooting Death of Donte Bennett
A 25-year-old man was shot and killed by police after they chased him down, suspecting that he was about to commit a crime. Donte Bennett was shot after Baltimore police acted on “intelligence” that a crime was about to happen. They chased Bennett into Douglas Homes, an altercation that ended with Bennett’s death:
[O]fficers claimed they struggled with Bennett, who produced a handgun; however, it is unclear how Bennett produced the weapon during the struggle. He said the officers “feared for their lives” and, at around 6:56 p.m., three officers shot Bennett multiple times. Bennett was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. None of the officers involved were injured.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Bennett was wanted for violating his probation on drug charges, and had previously faced car theft and weapons charges.
Also, two of the three officers identified as having participated in the shooting had previously fired their service weapons, the Sun reported. Officer Joseph Wiczulis, 32, fired at a suspect in March 2010 who had shot at two other officers; Officer Kyle Gaskin discharged his weapon at a suspect who had dragged him from a moving vehicle in 2009, according to the Sun, but did not hit the suspect. The third officer, identified as Peter Iacovo, had not been involved in any previous shooting incidents.
Statements from the police department conflict with accounts from more than a half dozen witnesses in the area. Many said Bennett did not have a handgun, but a cell phone.
Melvin Williams, 70, said he witnessed the shooting from a nearby bench and saw police chase Bennett up the street. He said the officers had Bennett boxed in and could have arrested him without discharging their weapons.
“They wrestled him down to the ground,” said Williams. “There was like a 10- to 15-second pause and then you heard the shots. It sounds like firecrackers…they could have put the handcuffs on him without shooting him.”
Read more at afro.com.
Residents of the Baltimore neighborhood are clearly outraged over the incident. Given the conflicting reports, Bennett’s family is hoping for an independent investigation. We will continue to follow this story.