Police believe call of shots fired in Gowen was fake

By Darrin Clark • Last Updated 4:47 pm on Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Montcalm County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Russell investigates a call of shots fired Tuesday. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon.

GOWEN — A man with alleged mental health issues told police an acquaintance fired a shotgun at him before fleeing into the woods.

But police are skeptical of the report and have no evidence suggesting a shooting ever took place. Sheriff Bill Barnwell said deputies responded to a call of a possible shooting around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Johnson and Holland Lake roads.

Police from multiple agencies blanketed the area searching for the suspect while continuing to interview the alleged victim.

The alleged victim, who Barnwell said has mental health issues, claims an acquaintance fired a shotgun several times at the victim while walking along the road.

The victim told police he was inside his home with a female friend when the suspect knocked on the door. The victim said he opened the door and the suspect walked in with a sawed off shotgun.

The victim claims the suspect sexually assaulted the female while making threats toward the victim. The suspect then allegedly fled the residence on foot and returned.

The victim said he went outside to confront the alleged gunman when the suspect allegedly fired two shots at the victim.

The suspect then allegedly fled into a wooded area near Holland Lake and Johnson roads. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department sent deputies to the area while the search was ongoing and a SWAT team was placed on standby.

Police learned the suspect lives on Montcalm Avenue nearby. Sheriff deputies confronted the alleged suspect at his residence, where he denied any involvement.

Deputies found the alleged female victim soon after. She denied any involvement in the incident and said she was not sexually assaulted.

“We have the alleged victim, who is not wounded. We have the alleged shooter, who says he was home and the shooting never happened. And we have the ex-girlfriend, who says the rape never happened,” Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Russell said at the scene. “We will continue to investigate.”

Police used the Tractor Supply Co. parking lot at Wise Road and M-91 as a command post during the incident, leading many to believe the store had been robbed.

Greenville Public Schools locked down all of its buildings for about 20 minutes in response to the incident. Superintendent Pete Haines said Lincoln Heights Elementary School initially was the only school to lock down, but the lockdown extended to all schools shortly after at the request of the Greenville Department of Public Safety.

The lockdown lasted about 20 minutes.

Police have no evidence that a shooting actually took place.

“We’re not sure of the stories,” Barnwell said. “We’re taking (the alleged victim’s) word for it unless he’s proven wrong.”

Barnwell said both the shooting suspect and victim are well known to area law enforcement and each other.
“We have a lot more questions than we have answers right now,” he said. “We’re taking it cautious. We’ll believe him for the time being until proven wrong.”

Russell said the alleged victim could be charged for filing a false police report if no shooting occurred.

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