SEYMOUR, Ind. — Jennings County Prosecutor Brian Belding concluded that a deputy was justified in fatally shooting Devin C. Lark on Feb. 3 after a struggle over a handgun put the K-9 handler’s life in jeopardy.
According to findings released by the prosecutor, Jennings County Sheriff’s deputies were on the hunt for Devin C. Lark after he left the courtroom on Jan. 30 prior to being found guilty to multiple felony counts of burglary and theft along with misdemeanor battery.
A warrant was issued on Feb. 2 for Lark’s arrest.
On Feb. 3, deputies activated a SWAT team in order to apprehend Lark after receiving a tip of his location in Seymour. Lark was said to be in possession of a firearm, according to the tip, and said he was “not going to go down without a fight.”
Multiple police vehicles, a K-9 unit and an armored vehicle carrying SWAT members descended upon the home located on County Road West 175 North, according to the prosecutor’s findings. As police arrived, Lark was spotted running for the back of the property.
The K-9 handler and his K-9 partner gave chase to Lark. The K-9 can reportedly be seen in bodycam footage biting Lark in his arm and dragging him to the ground.
“Show me your f****** hands!” the deputy reportedly said.
But Lark can be seen holding a handgun in his right hand, according to the findings.
The prosecutor said bodycam footage shows the deputy struggling to remove the gun from Lark’s hand.
The deputy can be heard warning Lark, “I’m going to f****** kill you.”
Lark is said to have responded with, “kill me, kill me.”
According to the deputy’s statement during the investigation, he could “feel Mr. Lark attempting to turn the gun towards me” during the brief struggle for the firearm.
The deputy then disengages and fires one shot into Lark’s chest. After fatally shooting Lark, the deputy removes the firearm from Lark’s person and tosses it away.
According to the prosecutor’s findings, only 21 seconds elapsed from when the deputy exited his patrol vehicle with his K-9 until he shot Lark.
“Had (the deputy) hesitated in his decision, he would have put himself in danger of serious bodily injury or death,” Prosecutor Brian Belding concluded.
In his final judgment, Belding said the deputy was ultimately justified in using deadly force due to not just fear for his own life, but fear of the life of his K-9 and other officers in the area.
“It is easy for a person to second-guess or say they would have done something different in this situation when they were not directly involved,” Belding said in his judgment. “You have to put yourself in the shoes of the law enforcement officer with the information they have at the time to make split-second decisions as to life and death.”
In autopsy findings, Lark was found to have numerous substances in his system including meth and fentanyl.