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County prosecutor rules fatal December Elkhart police shooting justified

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Justin Hicks
/
IPB News

The Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office has ruled that a December Elkhart Police shooting was justified.

On Dec. 15, two Elkhart Police officers — Patrolman Scott Swanson and Sergeant Benjamin Martin — responded to an early morning report of a man throwing a bicycle at the window of the Handy Spot Liquors on Hively Avenue.

In a news release, county prosecutor Vicki Becker said that while en route, Swanson and Martin were told the man was walking away from the store.

At 5:32 a.m., the two officers pulled into the Big Lots parking lot across the street within seconds of each other and saw a man, later identified as 20-year-old Jahad Patterson of Elkhart, matching the suspect’s description.

The release says Swanson identified himself as a police officer and ordered Patterson to show his hands, but Patterson pulled a handgun from his pocket and began raising it towards Swanson.

Both officers then fired at Patterson, who fell to the ground. After approaching, the officers identified the gun as a .380 Sig Sauer.

In the release, Becker said the county investigation found that Patterson “had a history of violent behavior” and had been arrested multiple times for resisting, assault with a deadly weapon and several drug offenses.

According to the release, Patterson had been committed to a mental health facility in March 2021 after he attempted to stab his siblings and himself. In September 2021, he fired a gun inside his apartment.

On the night of Dec. 14, Patterson had been causing a “significant disturbance” inside his apartment and had harmed himself. He was also under the influence of alcohol at the time of his death.

Becker found both officers acted in self-defense, and thus no charges will be filed.

The December shooting was the second time in six months where the Elkhart Police shot and killed someone. In August, an Elkhart Police sergeant shot and killed a 19-year-old while responding to another fatal shooting.

Following an investigation, the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office ruled that the shooting was justified in November.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes 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.