A rookie Ohio cop is being praised for “great restraint and maturity” after he held off using deadly force against a double murder suspect who charged at him, his police chief said.In a confrontation Thursday with a man accused of killing his fiancee and his best friend, New Richmond Police Officer Jesse Kidder is heard on his body-camera video yelling, “No man, I’m not going to do it!” and ordering the suspect to get down on the ground.
The suspect rushes toward him shouting, “Shoot me, shoot me!”
“Back up!” screams Kidder, holding his gun out. The man finally crumples to the ground just feet away from the officer in the video taken in the Cincinnati suburb of Elsmere, Kentucky.
Investigators say Michael Wilcox killed his fiancee in their Brown County, Ohio, home, then killed his best friend in Elsmere, reported NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati, which first obtained the body-camera video. A Brown County investigator spotted Wilcox Thursday night at about 8 p.m. and attempted to stop him, but Wilcox claimed he had a gun and drove away, officials said.
He was then followed by New Richmond police on a car chase through multiple counties on the Ohio-Kentucky border before Kidder caught Wilcox and arrested him.
The nonviolent confrontation caught on video has been highlighted as a positive example of police officer encounters nationwide. Their actions have been blemished by shootings of unarmed men, including a deadly officer shooting earlier this month in South Carolina.
Officers’ use of force has been the subject of protests since last August, when white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson was not wearing a body camera, which raised questions about what exactly led him to shoot and whether all police officers should be outfitted with the tiny video recorders.
In the Kentucky case, the suspect was believed to be armed and is heard threatening the officer on the video.
“For him to make the judgment call that he did shows great restraint and maturity,” New Richmond Police Chief Randy Harvey told WLWT about Kidder, who’s been on the force for a year. “This video footage, it eliminated all doubt that this officer would have been justified if in fact it came to a shooting.”
Kidder, who did two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine and is a Purple Heart recipient, told WLWT that a relative had given him a body camera to use at work after the Ferguson shooting.
During the confrontation Thursday, 911 dispatchers told Kidder that Wilcox could have a gun under his seat and may be threatening suicide-by-cop, according to WLWT. Kidder said since he knew backup was coming shortly, he held off shooting Wilcox.
“I was trying to open a dialogue with him. ‘I don’t want to shoot you, get on the ground,’ but he wasn’t having it. He kept repeating, ‘Shoot me.’ At one point, he said ‘Shoot me or I’ll shoot you,’” Kidder told WLWT.
The situation escalated: Wilcox put his hand in his pocket and again charged at Kidder — who is seen on the video tripping and falling backwards.
“He got towards my face right as I lost balance,” Kidder told WLWT. “I’m thinking at this point that if he goes into attack me, that I’ll have to use deadly force to defend myself.”
But he waited.
“Law enforcement officers all across the nation have to deal with split-second decisions that mean life or death. I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force,” he said.
Backup arrived just in time, and Wilcox surrendered.
Harvey said he hopes to obtain funding to get body cameras for the rest of the police force.
Dwayne Wenninger, sheriff in Brown County, said in a statement that Wilcox confessed to and has been charged with murder for the death of his fiancee, Courtney Fowler, and is also under suspicion for the friend’s death. Fowler died of gunshot wounds, the statement said.