BELDING — An early morning altercation today between a male suspect and a Belding police officer led to a shootout between the man and two police officers, resulting in the man’s death.
According to Belding Police Chief Dale Nelson, at approximately 5:12 a.m., shots were fired outside the Belding Police Department, located at 120 S. Pleasant St.
“An officer on duty went out to investigate and found that there was damage to one of our patrol cars,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the officer then followed the suspect, who was driving a white van.
According to Lt. Commander Kevin Sweeney of the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post, the investigation has now been taken over by the Michigan State Police.
Sweeney said the officer heard a loud popping sound while inside the police department and proceeded outside to investigate the sound.
“He saw that one of the windows in a police cruiser was broken and saw an individual getting into a van,” he said.
Sweeney said the officer followed the van, calling for backup support as he pursued the suspect. A trooper from the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post responded to assist.
The officers stopped the vehicle on the corner of Belding Road and Hawley Highway, about 1.4 miles away from the police station.
According to Sweeney, at that point the suspect was ordered out of the van by the officers and did exit the van.
“The suspect then fired a number of rounds at the officers,” Sweeney said. “Shots were fired, I can’t confirm how many, but a round hit the cruiser.”
Return fire was given by the police officers, in which the suspect suffered fatal wounds.
No police officers were injured in the exchange of gunfire.
According to Sweeney, the state trooper did not fire any rounds. The shots that were fired came from the Belding officer.
It is not known at this time what type of gun was used by the suspect, or how many rounds were fired.
Sweeney said no identification was found on the male suspect and his identity at this time is unknown.
At 9:45 a.m., Sweeney said the crime lab was still en route to the scene.
“We have no positive identification at this time,” he said. “That’s one of the primary things we are working on. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the suspect.”
According to Nelson, in his 11 years in service with the Belding Police Department, this is the first time an officer involved shooting has occurred.
“The officer is fine,” Nelson said. “He was not injured in the exchange. He is on paid administrative leave. That will continue until the investigation is completed and he is cleared to come back to work.”
According to Sweeney, M-44 will continue to be blocked off for several more hours. He suggests seeking alternate routes of travel.
“The investigation is absolutely still ongoing,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done.”
It is not known if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the incident.
Belding Mayor Ron Gunderson and every member of Belding City Council were in attendance at the Belding Pere Marquette Depot during the press conference given by the Michigan State Police Saturday to extend their sympathies.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the person who lost his life and all involved in the incident, directly and indirectly,” Gunderson said. “I also would like to extend my sympathies to the officers involved in the shooting. I commend the Belding Police Department and Michigan State Police for their quick thinking and response to the situation. Heroes such as the police, firemen and armed forced are those who risk their own life to make sure ours are a little safer.”
The Daily News will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.