NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Prosecutor Dennis Watkins has said no charges will be filed in an officer-involved shooting that killed a man in Niles earlier this year.
Matthew Burroughs, 35, was killed in the shooting involving two officers near the Royal Mall Apartments on Vienna Avenue on January 2.
The shooting sparked an independent investigation by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with the findings presented to the Trumbull County prosecutor.
BCI has already said Burroughs did not have a gun on him at the time of the shooting.
However, more than eight months after the shooting, Watkins said an investigation found the officers were justified in using force against Burroughs. He said Burroughs was driving his car at them.
“There is substantial evidence showing that Matthew Burroughs on January 2, 2019, intentionally and repeatedly in a continuing course of conduct actively resisted his arrest and attempted to evade his arrest by flight by using his automobile in such a threatening or deadly manner wherein Niles Police Officers reasonably believed that they were required to use deadly force and use their weapons to defend themselves from being seriously injured or killed by Burroughs,” the report stated.
Watkins’ 35-page document details the events of that day, Burroughs’ criminal past and results of his autopsy that also found Burroughs tested positive for Cannabinoids.
BCI’s investigation consisted of more than 1,600 pages of reports, dozens of recorded interviews, security video and police body cameras, according to Watkins.
In January, a court security officer told dispatchers an arrest warrant was out for Burroughs on assault charges from December. Those assault charges were alleged by the girlfriend of Burroughs, Tara Elkins, who told police Burroughs threw her to the ground, according to the report.
According to investigators, a probation officer was trying to arrest Burroughs on that warrant when Burroughs ran away and later hit that officer with his car door.
Watkins’ report says while Officers Chris Mannella and James Reppy were trying to stop Burroughs near the Royal Mall, Burroughs pulled “nose to nose” with the police cruiser, “slammed it in reverse” and started backing up toward Officer Reppy’s cruiser. Burroughs then “slammed it back into drive” and came back toward another police vehicle and then turned toward where Officer Mannella was walking, the report read.
Another officer reported Mannella fired a few shots after yelling at Burroughs to stop. The officer stated he believed Burroughs planned to hit Mannella with his vehicle if the shooting hadn’t occurred.
“When Burroughs ignored these commands and drove toward Officer Mannella, Mannella fired three rounds from his service weapon through the front windshield of Burroughs’ vehicle,” said Niles Police Capt. John Marshall.
Reppy told investigators he also fired shots at Burroughs after seeing him driving toward Mannella. He said he feared Burroughs was going to run over Mannella.
The coroner determined Burroughs died due to three gunshot wounds to the chest. BCI’s investigation determined all of the shots were fired from Mannella’s weapon. The shots fired from Reppy’s weapon did not hit Burroughs, according to the report.
“My sympathy is extended to everyone involved in this tragic incident,” said Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz. “The process, up to this point, has taken a toll on all parties.”
The Niles Police Department also conducted an internal investigation into the incident. That investigation found the shooting was justified, however, the investigation found some of the officers violated the department’s policy on body-worn cameras.
The internal report says Officer Mannella, Officer Paul Hogan and Lt. Dan Adkins did not have their body-worn cameras turned on during the incident.
Body-camera footage from Officer Reppy was released, but there was no video released from Mannella until after the shooting happened.
Mannella told officers he alternates wearing his body armor from an external carrier vest to the traditional under-the-shirt carrier and the camera is not in the same position on each of the uniforms. He said he tried to turn it on when he saw the suspect’s vehicle, but it was not located where he instinctively went to. He said as the incident evolved, he wasn’t able to quickly turn it on.
The report says Hogan didn’t turn his camera on and Adkins didn’t turn it on until exiting his patrol vehicle.
According to the police chief, discipline will be issued in regard to that violation.
The shooting has caused an outcry from the community with many rallying for justice and the NAACP calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a full criminal and “pattern and practice” investigation.
The officers involved have since been restored to full duty.