GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The jury in the trial for a Grand Rapids police officer charged with carelessly discharging his gun released its verdict Friday evening just before 6 p.m.
The jury decided officer Greg Bauer is not guilty, after a little more than an hour of deliberating.
An attorney for a man who was being investigated at the time issued a statement Saturday unhappy with the decision and how he says his client was treated.
The Grand Rapids Police Department says Officer Gregory Bauer accidentally shot his gun while responding to what was believed to be the spotting of a car theft back in December.
It happened on Dec. 9 when Daevionne Smith drove to his father’s house near Cass and Sycamore streets around 10:30 p.m. He parked his car and went inside. When he returned outside, GRPD had surrounded his car.
According to the Grand Rapids Police Department, officers saw a car that “possibly” matched the description of a stolen one linked to other crimes, so they followed it and set up a perimeter while they waited for Smith to leave.
When Smith came out, GRPD officers moved in. Police say it’s during these moments that an officer slipped while, “running down a sloped area” and discharged his gun.
The bullet went in Smith’s direction but hit a building.
After the weapon was fired, police went on to learn Smith’s car, while “similar,” was not the one in question.
On Thursday, attorneys made their opening statements to the jury.
“This case is about a person taking responsibility for their actions, that’s it," said Assistant Kent County Attorney Felix Tarango. “The question, at the end of the day, that you’re going to have to answer is should Mr. Bauer be held responsible for that gun going off?”
“This is serious," said defense attorney Mark Dodge. "You’ve got a fellow citizen here who maintains his innocence.”
During witness testimony later on Thursday, Jessica Ramirez, a firearms examiner with the Michigan State Police said Bauer's gun was functioning properly at the time it was returned to her office for investigation. A forensic technician with GRPD, Bauer's own agency, showed the jury images of the bullet fired from Bauer's Glock-17 service gun on December 9th. The bullet nicked a metal railing, she said, and came to rest atop a full garbage bag on a nearby porch after hitting a brick wall.
Dodge implored the jury to remember that Bauer is innocent until found otherwise.
“Through this trial, you the jury, you are the last line of defense," said Dodge, "to challenge the prosecutor’s case, to assure that an innocent person is not convicted of something that they may not be criminally responsible for.”
FOX 17 talked with GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom Friday after the verdict. He said the department is still in the process of an internal review; however, because Officer Bauer was acquitted, GRPD now will expedite the review.
Chief Winstrom added that Bauer has done a lot of retraining, including work inside the classroom, after the incident back in December.
"The firearm training that these officers are going through today is extremely robust, taking into account things such as accidental discharge and Officer Bauer himself has gone through dozens and dozens of hours of retraining to make sure that he's up to the best possible standards in that he was training," Chief Winstrom explained. "I'm just extremely happy that no one got hurt."
In response to this verdict, the Grand Rapids Police Officer's Association (GRPOA) posted the following on Facebook:
"Never a doubt Officer Bauer would be acquitted. What a waste of tax payer dollars. Way to go Becker!! Officer Schurr will be the next to be acquitted."
Smith is now suing the Grand Rapids Police Department, the city of Grand Rapids and Officer Gregory Bauer for $7.5 million to compensate him for “mental and physical anguish, loss of enjoyment, and the post-traumatic stress.”
Smith's attorney released the following statement Saturday in regards to Officer Bauer's acquittal:
"Daevionne Smith was shot at and nearly killed by Officer Bauer's weapon just months before the killing of Patrick [Lyoya] by fellow Grand Rapids Police Officer Schurr. Despite pleas to the Kent County Prosecutor's Office, Daevionne Smith was never afforded his rights under law as a victim. Furthermore, Mr. Smith feels that Officer Bauer's criminal trial was a farce, organized to allow the State actor to avoid accountability for his actions. Below you will find Daevionne Smith's official response to Officer Bauer's criminal trial in Grand Rapids, MI, County of Kent."
Smith's official response says, in part:
"[The] Kent County Prosecutor's Office and the Kent County District Courts denied Daevionne Smith's rights as a victim and citizen when they ignored his injuries, forced him to relive traumatic events and prevented him from sitting in on the trial."
Here's the full response: