WETMORE - Detectives from the Michigan State Police post in Negaunee Township continued today to investigate an officer-involved shooting and car crash that left an Alger County man dead Monday afternoon.
Lt. Gregory Cunningham, of the Michigan State Police Gladstone post, said detectives were making progress in the investigation, conducting interviews and securing search warrants for a police cruiser and a vehicle involved in the incident that crashed south of Munising Monday.
"It's moving along rather quickly," Cunningham said.
Police held a press conference in Munising Tuesday afternoon to release details on a car crash and officer-involved shooting, which took place Monday afternoon south of Munising. Shown from left at the press conference are Alger County Sheriff Robert Hughes, Lt. Gregory Cunningham, commander of the Michigan State Police Gladstone post, Munising City Police Chief John Nelson and Munising City Manager Devin Olson. (Journal photo by Brenda Mozader)
Cunningham is overseeing the investigation at the request of Munising Police Chief John Nelson.
Police said the shooting occurred after a report of an altercation in Christmas and a pursuit by a Munising City Police officer down Federal Forest Highway 13, onto the Buckhorn Road where the fleeing suspect's red passenger car crashed.
"It lasted less than 10 minutes," Cunningham said.
Timothy Mitchell, 47, was pronounced dead at the scene, which was located along the Buckhorn Road, a mile or so west of Federal Forest Highway 13.
Cunningham said Tuesday police did not know yet whether Mitchell died from a gunshot wound or the automobile crash. An autopsy, to conclusively determine the manner of death and other information, was conducted at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Marquette General Hospital in Marquette.
Cunningham said today he was told the results of the examination, but declined to detail them until a report from the coroner is completed.
Police said the incident began about 5:30 p.m. Monday when Alger County Sheriff's Office dispatchers received a report an altercation had occurred in Christmas and an intoxicated driver had left the scene.
Cunningham said detectives were trying to determine exactly where the reported altercation took place and what it involved. Police said initial reports a domestic disturbance triggered the event were false.
"At this point, all we know is it was an altercation," Cunningham said. "It was not a domestic violence incident."
Cunningham said a Munising City Police Department officer had heard a description of the vehicle and spotted the car in Munising. The officer tried to stop the car, but the driver allegedly kept driving south and east out of Munising along M-28.
At Federal Forest Highway 13, the driver turned south and was pursued by the Munising officer. Cunningham said there were no state police patrol units in the area at the time to respond to the incident. Alger County Sheriff's deputies moved to the area.
About seven miles down Highway 13, the car turned off onto the Buckhorn Road.
"On the Buckhorn Road, the vehicle crashed," Cunningham said. "After the vehicle crashed, there was an officer-involved shooting."
Detectives were working to determine the facts of exactly what occurred at the scene. Once a search warrant is obtained for the police cruiser, investigators expect to recover dash camera video of the incident.
Cunningham said he did not know whether Mitchell was armed. He said initial reports gunfire was exchanged between Mitchell and police were false. Cunningham said he did not know how many shots were fired.
The officer's gun was sent to the state police crime laboratory in Grayling for testing.
Alger County Sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene after the shooting had occurred. Nelson went to the scene and called state police to investigate the incident.
"It was pretty standardized for him to make that request and we accepted," Cunningham said.
A state police accident reconstructionist went to the crash site. Personnel from the state police crime laboratories in Marquette and Grayling were also summoned.
Cunningham said the scene was cleared by police at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Munising police officer was placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation takes place. Cunningham said Nelson and Munising City Manager Devin Olson decided to withhold the officer's name until the conclusion of the probe, as is standard practice.
"We're very concerned for the family of the deceased and the officer involved and the city of Munising," Cunningham said. "We're working to get all the facts to present to the Alger County prosecutor for review."
Cunningham said Tuesday the investigation was expected to take a couple of weeks to conclude.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.