A man called the Lafayette Police Department on Jan. 20 to report that he was walking along 23rd and State streets holding a loaded gun.
About 20 minutes later, Dustin Furr was dead.
During that period, what happened and how did the behavior of the officers align with the training they had received?
Officer Jeremy Kennedy arrived at the scene five minutes after the 2:13 p.m. call and, at 2:20 p.m., saw Furr’s handgun and initiated 11 minutes of de-escalation tactics.
LPD Chief Patrick Flannelly said during a Friday press conference that upon arrival, an officer’s first step is to establish a rapport with the instigator, which Kennedy is shown to have done in body camera footage of the interaction. He attempted to divert Furr’s attention to other matters, asking him repeatedly why he continued to glance at his phone.
Simultaneously, officers sent dispatches to the Crisis Negotiation Team and worked to establish a perimeter to block potential escape routes and passing traffic and bystanders. At 2:24 p.m., officer Nathan Stoneking said a perimeter was set, though vehicles continued to drive by the sidewalk where Furr stood.
“Innocent bystanders, in this situation, become our number one priority,” Flannelly said regarding the perimeter. “Several had the handgun actually pointed at them. Any hostages would be our second priority, the officers then become third and then those that instigate fall to the bottom of the priority list.”
Stoneking was just under 100 yards away, lying prone next to Kennedy’s parked car, and was in the same position upon firing his weapon. Kennedy was the closest officer involved, at a distance of 45 yards. Furr had taken one step toward him with his weapon raised to shoulder height, and that provoked Stoneking to shoot him.
Using a taser was implausible because the weapon is ineffective beyond a 25-foot range. Non-lethal buckshot rounds have a maximum effective range of 60 feet.
The CNT was unable to reach the scene in time to perform its specialized duties. As defined on LPD’s website, its goal is “the preservation of life during critical incidents through the art of negotiations.” Critical incidents include hostage situations, the presence of a barricaded gunman and protecting suicidal persons.
If negotiations could have been extended, Flannelly said, an armored vehicle and the department’s SWAT team would have been fully mobilized and able to assist.
“Had we had enough time, we could have driven up in an armored vehicle and gotten close enough to attempt a taser deployment,” Flannelly said. “11 minutes is not a lot of time.”
Deputy Chief Brad Bishop led the shooting review board that restored Stoneking to duty on Jan. 27 after he had been placed on paid administrative leave as a result of the incident.
Bishop said the LPD conducted two investigations that are department protocol after an officer-involved shooting.
The criminal investigation involved the compilation of evidence and interviews with witnesses to outline the facts of the case and has been sent to the Tippecanoe County prosecutor’s office. A dual investigation centered on the policies LPD has in place to govern officers’ uses of force during crises and whether Stoneking followed guidelines has concluded.
On the investigation into whether LPD policies would need to be amended, Flannelly was direct.
“No,” he said. “No. We felt really good about what our training led to.
“Officers are entitled to due process because there is a criminal nature to that side of the parallel investigation. So we do want to protect the rights of the officers. In the end, what we’re always trying to do is make sure that we conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”
The LPD has worked this incident into its ongoing training, as it does with much of the footage it takes over the course of every month, Flannelly said.
Flannelly said how circumstances like officer-involved shootings are harder to deal with now with the advent of social media, as the public demands to see all available video immediately.
“Our officers — they fully support those (transparency) efforts,” Flannelly said, adding that this particular instance highlighted the effort police go through to release useful footage.
Though the police had access to over 60 different video sources, according to Flannelly, only a few clips actually proved useful, as many body cameras only caught the cars and trees officers ducked behind. Stoneking’s bodycam just shows the ground, since he was lying prone when he shot Furr, the chief said.
“It’s a lot, a lot of people involved, a lot of cars,” Flannelly said. “And so it can be a little complex when you’re trying to put it all together.
“It’s not instant replay. It’s not NFL Sunday.”
Flannelly said the department prefers to brand situations requiring lethal force as a “response to resistance.” He said this gives the public a more accurate view of the training officers do in preparation for crisis situations.
The variety of circumstances that police officers face on a daily basis are what LPD said it focuses its training on, not specifically situations involving deadly force.
“Outcomes like this are never desired,” Flannelly said. “Sometimes they do become necessary. ... We’re prepared to do what we need to do, but that’s not what we want to have happen.”
He added that officers are instructed to use “reasonable” force based on the perceived risks created by the circumstances and are not mandated to assume unreasonable risk in their responses.
Describing an upcoming LPD seminar on officer-involved lethal force investigations, the department has realized the immense negative attention such circumstances bring to a police force. The course attempts to teach appropriate protocol to policymakers and criminal investigators, not just officers, to minimize turmoil during “inevitable” situations.
During any time of their employment, police officers can use Anthem’s Employee Assistance Program for mental health and counseling services, Flannelly said.
EAP is available for all state employees, according to Indiana’s government website, and also offers services like financial and legal consultations. The website notes that state employees get “eight free face-to-face counseling sessions with a licensed therapist ... per issue and per year,” along with additional crisis services if necessary.
“It’s a thankless job,” Flannelly said. “People don’t call us on their best days.
“While we might consider this a successful outcome for our training and the way things went, the flip side of that coin is that somebody lost their life. We would never relish in having to make those types of decisions, but that’s the brutal fact of what we do out there every day.”