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Fatal shooting of man by Dunkirk police chief, other officer was justified, Jay County Prosecutor says

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 17:29:14-04

DUNKIRK, Ind. — The Jay County Prosecutor's Office has determined the Dunkirk police chief and another officer were justified when they fatally shot a man earlier this month, saying the man lunged at them both with knives and attacked them before the officers fired their weapons.

A Thursday statement by the office says Kevin Zimmerman, 36, of Dunkirk, armed with two knives, ran at Chief Dan Mumbower and Officer Erica Post, knocked them to the floor, and slashed at them before the officers fired their weapons.

The statement also says Mumbower deployed a Taser on Zimmerman before firing his gun.

"Indiana Code 35-41-3-2 provides that a person is justified in using deadly force against another person and does not have a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person. That [statute] further provides that no person, employer, or estate of a person in this State shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting the person or a third person by all reasonably necessary means," the statement reads.

Neither officer was wearing body cameras at the time, as the Dunkirk Police Department does not utilize them, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

Mumbower and Post were responding on March 3 to a home in the 200 block of Mount Auburn Street for a call from Zimmerman saying he believed someone was trying to harm him. There, the officers announced themselves as police and knocked on the door several times, but Zimmerman would not come outside, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

At one point, dispatch relayed to the officers that someone else inside the home said Zimmerman was armed with knives and that he was suffering from a mental health issue. It was then the officers entered the home.

Mumbower entered with a Taser drawn, and Post with her duty weapon drawn, and Zimmerman told them, "OK, OK, come on in. The officers could not see Zimmerman and ordered him to come out with his hands up, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

Mumbower then saw Zimmerman crouched down in the kitchen and told him to come outside to talk with officers. Zimmerman then leapt up and ran toward Mumbower with both his arms raised and an 8-inch butcher knife in hand, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

Mumbower retreated but Zimmerman was already on top of him, at which point Mumbower deployed his Taser with no effect. Zimmerman tackled Mumbower into a corner, wrapped his arms around him, and struck him in the back, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

The Prosecutor's Office said Mumbower believed he was being stabbed by the knife.

Zimmerman then attacked Post, knocked her to the floor and slashed at her back. It was at that point both officers shot their guns at Zimmerman, killing him, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

They then both gave CPR to Zimmerman until medics arrived. He was later pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds. An autopsy found he had been shot a total of four times, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

Mumbower received medical treatment for a deep knife wound to his hand, while Post suffered minor puncture wounds as well as small cuts and abrasions that didn't require medical attention.

The Prosecutor's Office said Indiana law dictates an officer may enter a person's home without a warrant if there are, "exigent circumstances present to justify the entry." It determined their entry into the home was justified.

"Both Officer Post and Chief Mumbower stated they feared not only for their own lives, but for the life of each other when they fired their weapons at Kevin Zimmerman. In fact, Officer Post believed that Chief Mumbower might have already been dead after having been tackled to [the] floor and seeing Kevin Zimmerman slashing at the Chief’s back with the knife. Under these facts and circumstances, both officers were justified in using deadly force against Kevin Zimmerman as they had a belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent serious injury or death and other non-lethal methods were employed that were ineffective.

"Determining that the officers were justified in using deadly force does not [diminish] the tragedy of the loss of human life my sincere condolences go out to Kevin Zimmerman’s family and friends for that loss. I appreciate the public’s patience in awaiting the outcome of this investigation. Additionally, I would like to thank the Indiana State Police for their thorough and professional investigation," the statement reads.

The Prosecutor's Office's full statement is available here.