Former officer faces 17 years in prison for shooting suspect who stole car, lead to high speed chase

LOWELL, MI – The Michigan Attorney General recently announced charges against a former Lowell Police officer in connection with a non-fatal officer-involved shooting of a passenger inside of an allegedly stolen vehicle from August of 2020. 

While the former officer has since bonded out of jail, he could be facing up to 17 years in prison if convicted of the charges he’s facing.  

The incident in question dates back to August 29th of 2020, when former Officer Jason Diaz was in pursuit of an allegedly stolen vehicle during the early morning hours. 

During the preliminary stages of the investigation, reports indicated that Officer Diaz had noticed a vehicle driving through the downtown area with its high beams on and started to follow said vehicle. 

When the officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop, the vehicle reportedly sped off. A subsequent records check of the vehicle while the officer was pursuing it revealed that the vehicle had been reported stolen out of the Grand Rapids area. 

The chase itself went on for roughly three miles, with speeds reaching as high as 100 mph. 

At one point, the driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle and had ended up on the side of the road.

From what the preliminary report indicated, as Officer Diaz approached the vehicle, the driver had allegedly backed the car up toward where Officer Diaz was, at which point the officer opened fire on the vehicle. 

The driver of the vehicle in question reportedly sped off again after the shots were fired. Eventually the driver lost control of the vehicle again and crashed into a ditch. 

Five suspects were said to have fled on foot from the vehicle, but were eventually apprehended.

Later reports showed that one of the five suspects suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the head (despite initial reports claiming the suspect was shot in the arm).

As with any officer-involved shooting, Officer Diaz was placed on administrative leave while officials investigated the incident. 

Yet, in March, Diaz wound up resigning from the Lowell Police Department and was later arrested under charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, misconduct in office by a public official, and careless discharge causing injury. 

According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, when then-Officer Diaz opened fire on the suspect vehicle, he not only violated department use-of-force policy, but also engaged in criminal behavior. 

The AG’s office alleges that when Officer Diaz fired his weapon, the suspect vehicle was fleeing rather than coming toward him during the incident. It’s currently unclear as to what evidence exactly has led investigators to come to said conclusion as of this writing. 

In a statement released by the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, Director of Labor Services David Willis alleges that then-Officer Diaz was operating in full accordance with department policy when discharging his weapon: 

“He acted in accordance with the law – as well as – his Department policies – and his training. Officer Diaz was in fact cleared by his department after an internal investigation was concluded and resumed active patrol duties several weeks ago.”

While there’s ambiguity on whether or not the Lowell Police Department actually cleared Diaz of any wrongdoing from a policy perspective, Lowell Police Chief Chris Hurst denied that Diaz ever returned to patrol duties following the shooting.

A statement provided by the City of Lowell regarding the matter notes that the city’s official position on the case is to remind everyone of the presumption of innocence of all defendants: 

“In our judicial system, everyone enters with the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise in a court of law. Although this individual is not currently employed by the City, pending the outcome of the case, he could reapply for a position in the department or with the City.”

Diaz has since bonded out of jail following his arrest, and is scheduled for his next court appearance on March 22nd. If convicted, Diaz could be facing up to 17 years in prison.

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In other recent reports regarding officers charged in connection with on-duty shootings, an Oklahoma City officer has been charged with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a suspect back in December of 2020. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – An Oklahoma City police officer has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, following the fatal police shooting of a 60-year-old homeless man that occurred in December of 2020. 

Prosecutors say that the officer fatally shot the suspect, who was armed with a knife, as he was running away from officers. 

On December 11th, 2020, Oklahoma City Police were notified about a man, identified as Bennie Edwards, who was reportedly bothering customers outside of a store located within the 2100 block of West Hefner Road. 

The first officer to arrive on the scene was Sergeant Keith Duroy, who had tried speaking with Edwards who was reportedly in possession of a folding knife in his right hand. 

Officials allege that Edwards was telling Sergeant Duroy to leave the area, and shortly thereafter, Sergeant Duroy had requested that backup arrive to assist – specifically requesting that a unit with a Taser respond to the scene. 

That’s when Sergeant Clifford Holman, who is a certified Taser operator, arrived on scene and assisted Sergeant Duroy in trying to talk down the armed suspect. 

Edwards allegedly continued to tell the officers on the scene to leave – while still reportedly being in possession of the folding knife. Officers were said to have commanded Edwards to drop the knife, as the suspect was allegedly pointing the weapon at officers. 

Sergeant Holman was said to have deployed the Taser on the suspect twice during the encounter, which reportedly had no effect on Edwards. OC spray was also utilized, which court documents state was also ineffective on the suspect. 

It was after the Taser was deployed the second time that Edwards began to allegedly charge toward Sergeant Duroy while still armed with the knife. 

Sergeant Holman was said to have un-holstered his side arm and opened fire on Edwards at this point – resulting in the suspect being fatally wounded. 

A bystander just happened to have been recording the incident when the shooting occurred. In the witness video captured from the scene, the suspect can be seen charging toward one of the officers and three rounds can be heard being discharged. 

Then, it appears as though Edwards begins running in a direction away from officers and three other rounds were discharged, with the suspect falling to the ground. 

From what the court documents note in the case, it seems as though it was the final three shots discharged by Sergeant Holman that has resulted in the charges he is now facing: 

“Sgt. Clifford Holman dropped his Taser unit, drew his service weapon and fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away, striking him in his upper middle back, causing his death.”

A statement was released from the Oklahoma City Police Department after they were notified about Sergeant Holman being charged in Edwards death.

The statement said: 

“On Dec. 11, 2020 at 11:38 a.m., Master Sgt. Keith Duroy and Sgt. Clifford Holman were involved in a shooting in the 2100 block of West Hefner Road. The shooting resulted in the death of Bennie Edwards.”

It continued:

“The incident was investigated and presented to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office for review. On Feb. 24, 2021, the department was informed that the District Attorney would be filing the charge of manslaughter in the first degree on Sgt. Clifford Holman.

“Sergeant Holman has been with the department for seven years and is currently on paid administrative leave. The District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against Master Sgt. Keith Duroy for his involvement in the shooting.”

Edwards was apparently known to have suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by both family and local community members. 

In Oklahoma, first-degree manslaughter carries a 4-year minimum prison sentence upon conviction. 

John George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, also released a statement on the charge brought against Sergeant Holman, expressing support for the officer and implying that the use of force was justified, saying: 

“The OKC FOP stands by Sgt. Holman, who followed his training when an armed suspect charged another officer. A loss of life is always a tragedy, but officers must be able to protect one another when de-escalation tactics are ineffective.”

He continued:

“In this situation, when faced with a disturbed individual armed with a deadly weapon, our officers used multiple methods of de-escalation and less-lethal options to try to avoid the use of deadly force.

“When those efforts were ineffective, the officers were put in peril when they were charged by the armed person. We maintain that Sgt. Holman upheld his duty and followed the law.”

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Author: Gregory Hoyt

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