June 2016 police shooting in Muncie justified, state police report finds

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Investigators at scene on Aug. 1, 2016

MUNCIE, Ind. – Two Muncie police officers will not face charges after a June 2016 shooting that killed a man who was brandishing a knife.

Indiana State Police investigated the June 4 incident that killed Larry Stepp, 31. Stepp suffered five gunshot wounds during the incident and died from his wounds.

According to the ISP report, the officers—who weren’t identified—arrived in the 1300 block of West 18th Street after someone called 911 to report that Stepp had stabbed a 15-year-old girl. According to witnesses at the scene, Stepp had been causing trouble that day, abusing a dog and making a “sexual comment” to the 15-year-old girl during a cookout. After he “grabbed her” buttocks, Stepp was asked to leave.

Initially, he did. However, he returned with a knife and stabbed the teen in the stomach, police said.

Two Muncie police officers were in the area on an unrelated call and responded to the cookout. A woman said Stepp was harassing her granddaughter.

“Any unit that can start to 1317 W. 18th Street on a subject causing trouble. He is there now,” reads a transcription of dispatch traffic. “They are advising that he has a knife.”

While the officers were on their way, they were advised of the stabbing. Officers took one minute and six seconds to reach the location. The incident was caught on body cameras, although the footage hasn’t been made available.

Upon arrival, the officers talked to a man who said Stepp had just stabbed his girlfriend; Stepp had his back to the officers and was still holding the knife. The officers yelled for him to put the knife down and step back. Stepp turned to face the officers and walked “at a very fast pace” toward police.

The officers retreated backwards and continued telling Stepp to drop the knife. In total, the officers ordered Stepp to drop the knife eight times. “Stepp disregarded all eight of those verbal commands,” the report said.

Multiple eyewitnesses corroborated the account, saying they heard officers tell Stepp multiple times to drop the knife. One witness said Stepp “kept going towards police with the knife held out.” A second said Stepp had the knife in his right hand pointed at police while he walked toward them.

A third witness said Stepp was “walking towards [the officers] like Michael Myers [from the Halloween slasher movies].”

Seven seconds elapsed between the time Stepp turned to face the officers and the moment police fired their weapons.

When Stepp didn’t stop and drew within an arm’s reach of the officers, they opened fire, hitting him five times: twice in the front shoulder, once in the left lower chest, one in the left upper abdomen and once in the left front thigh.

One officer fired four times; the other fired once.

The report said “the officers did not provoke, instigate, or participate willingly in the violence” and that both officers “had a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.”

According to the report’s conclusion, police shot Stepp in self-defense and investigators determined the shooting was justified.

The report’s conclusion notes:

If you choose to pull a deadly weapon on a police officer, you do so at your own peril. Had Stepp survived, he would have faced multiple charges including battery with a deadly weapon, criminal recklessness, criminal trespass, and resisting law enforcement. No charges will be filed in this matter, as the only suspect is deceased.

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