GOWEN — A man with alleged mental health issues is telling 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.
Police from multiple agencies blanketed the area around Montcalm Avenue and Sidney Road in Gowen searching for the suspect while continuing to interview the alleged victim.
Sheriff Bill Barnwell said deputies responded to a call of a possible shooting around 9:30 a.m. at 3243 Montcalm Ave.
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 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 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 and has been lifted.
However, police so far have no evidence that a shooting actually took place.
“We’re not sure of the stories,” Barnwell said. “We’re taking his word for it unless he’s proven wrong.”
Montcalm County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Russell said the incident apparently started with allegations of a rape involving the victim’s ex-girlfriend. Police aren’t sure what connection the alleged shooting suspect has to the alleged rape.
The shooting suspect apparently lives across the Flat River from the alleged shooting victim. Police have both men and the alleged rape victim in custody and are trying to sort out what actually happened.
“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,” Russell said. “We will continue to investigate.”
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.
Staff writer Elisabeth Waldon contributed to this report.