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Elkhart officer who shot, killed man in August was justified, investigation concludes

Jakob Lazzaro / WVPE

An Elkhart County Homicide Unit investigation has concluded that an August Elkhart police shooting was justified.

According to a report from the Elkhart County Prosecutor, on Aug. 27, 19-year-old Lonnel Cephas fired multiple rounds from a handgun into a house located at 514 West High Street with the intent of harming his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend and her mother.

The two women were not hit, but one of the bullets struck and killed Danton Munoz, a toddler a few days shy of his second birthday, who was standing behind the doorway to the house.

Davis then fled in a blue van, and according to the report, his car was spotted a few minutes later and a person matching his description was seen walking in an alley in the area of 8th and Cleveland Avenue.

The report said Sergeant Mike Davis, a 15-year veteran of the department, was the first officer to arrive on the scene. He confronted Cephas in the alley and commanded him to show his hands.

Cephas then pulled a gun out of his front pocket and put it up toward his head. Davis commanded him to drop it, but Cephas lowered the gun towards the officer and Davis then shot him.

Cephas died of multiple gunshot wounds, and the report said a 9 millimeter handgun found under Cephas’ body was identified by forensic analysis of having fired the bullets at the house minutes earlier.

The shooting was captured on Davis’ body cam, and the report said that given the evidence, it was justified under Indiana law. Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker has declined to file any criminal charges.

“There are no words sufficient to express the profound and senseless loss of this child, just days before his second birthday,” Becker said in a statement. “The persistent unreasonable use of deadly weapons by people in our community continues to threaten the safety of everyone, as well as the rights of reasonable citizens.”

Because Cephas is deceased, the report said no criminal prosecution may proceed relating to the death of Danton Munoz.

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro came to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.