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POLC officer shot in the line of duty

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: February 16, 2015


Union protects officers involved in shootings

– By Jennifer Foley, POJ Editor with excerpts from mlive.com

Wyoming Police Officer Frank Hartuniewicz is recovering after being shot in the line of duty.

A POLC Officer was shot Jan. 29, 2015 while investigating a domestic assault complaint and two other POLC officers returned fire, seriously injuring the suspect. All three officers involved in the shootings are on leave and POLC labor attorneys are providing legal support during the investigation.

Frank Hartuniewicz, a 15-year veteran of the Wyoming Police Department, was released from Mercy Health Saint Mary’s on the evening of Jan. 29 after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound. As Hartuniewicz recovers at home, the two officers who shot at the suspect are also at home on paid administrative leave.

Wyoming-Officer-hart-for-web

Wyoming Police Officer Frank Hartuniewicz was shot in the line of duty.

Hartuniewicz responded to a domestic assault complaint at a house along Himes Street SE, according to Wyoming Police Chief James Carmody. Carmody said the suspect and his wife had been drinking prior to the domestic incident that brought officers to the home about 3:15 p.m. The woman exited the home and told officers the man had loaded firearms. As she spoke with police, a man in his 30s exited the home out a back door about 3:40 p.m. armed with multiple loaded weapons and immediately began shooting at police. He wounded Officer Hartuniewicz who stood at the other side of a fence, police said.

Two officers returned fire. The suspect scaled a fence and ran to Abbie Street, while continuing to shoot at random and at police. A resident on Abbie Street suffered minor injuries when a stray bullet entered his home and grazed the side of his body. Two residents said the armed man tried to enter their homes, but the doors were locked. Another man was walking near the scene with his 3-year-old niece and heard police make announcements that they were outside the house. He then heard gunshots and hid under a car with the girl.

The suspect was confined on Abbie Street, where he again fired at police. Two officers returned fire, shooting the suspect once in the chest. Police approached the suspect using an armored vehicle. He was transported to a hospital, where he underwent surgery and was last known to be in serious condition. He is currently under guard by Grand Rapids Police and Michigan State Police personnel.

POLC Labor Rep. Mike Woronko spoke to the wounded officer following the incident. “Imagine you’re bleeding all over the place and thinking the worst,” Woronko said, but Hartuniewicz was fortunate. “He’s doing well. My understanding is the bullet that struck him passed through this wooden fence first. I imagine the bullet passing through the wood is either deformed or damaged and when it strikes the officer it then fragments and it doesn’t penetrate fully the way it would if it was an intact bullet. It strikes him and doesn’t damage any vital organs. The doctors examined him and removed as much of the bullet fragments as they could and sent him home.”

Also at home are the Wyoming and Kentwood Police Officers who shot at the suspect (one hitting him). They will remain off duty pending completion of the investigation. “Because we have two jurisdictions involved in the shooting of a suspect, they thought it best to bring in State Police and investigate the police shooting of the suspect,” Woronko said.

Woronko, an attorney who handles officer-involved shootings for the union on the west side of the state, was at the scene of the shootings within an hour. “We rely very much on the union stewards for their initial contact with the officers,” Woronko said. “They’re usually the first to be notified. In this case I had a union steward on the scene within minutes.”

“(POLC Labor Rep.) Will Keizer and I have issued a stewards protocol on what to do and we’ve distributed it in training over the last six to eight years,” Woronko said. “They can keep it in their briefcase or on a clipboard so when this sort of thing happens it’s right there at their fingertips. It’s what you should be doing and how to help the officer and advance the investigation while your POLC attorney is responding to the scene.”

Officers who use deadly force in the course of their jobs are subject to criminal investigation. As such, they have the same rights as a criminal defendant and it’s the job of the POLC legal staff to maintain the officer’s due process rights. “My job is to deal with when officers decide to use deadly force, is the deadly force justified and try to provide them counsel,” Woronko said. “At this point we don’t know who actually hit the guy. They were shooting at probably a 60-yard distance.”

POLC Officer comes to aid of another officer shot in the line of duty

In a separate incident involving the shooting of a Flint Township Police Officer on Jan. 23, 2015, a POLC Officer from Swartz Creek Police Department came to the aid of that officer and shot the suspect. The Swartz Creek Officer, a 12-year veteran, responded to a radio call when a Flint Township Officer said he was fighting with a suspect near the Hometown Inn in Flint Township. The Flint Township Officer next radioed he had been shot by a black male driving a red Pontiac Montana Van. The Officer was wounded in the arm and took a round to his bullet resistant vest. He is expected to recover fully.

The Swartz Creek Officer spotted the van and pulled behind it with his lights activated. The van stopped and then reversed striking the marked police car. The suspect jumped out and ran back towards the officer shooting a handgun. The Officer returned fire through the driver’s side window. The suspect approached within 10 feet exchanging fire with the Officer and then retreated back towards his van. Having lost sight of the suspect, the Swartz Creek Officer began searching and located the wounded suspect on the ground beside a vehicle. He had dropped his handgun after being struck with six rounds. He was cuffed and transported to the hospital and is expected to recover.

POLC Attorney Tom Zulch immediately responded to the incident helping the Swartz Creek Officer complete his departmental report and returned later to assist with the State Police interview. The Officer is on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

I think it’s important that officers know they will have contact with a POLC attorney as soon as we can get in contact with you (either by phone or in person),” Woronko said. “I interview them to make sure use of force was justified. Once I know the facts and I know that these guys did what they were supposed to do, I follow them though the investigation, whether writing a report or being interviewed. It’s normal to be put on paid administrative leave until the prosecutor’s office can make a ruling.”

POLC’s Legal Staff, which also includes Brendan Canfield and Peter Sudnick, attended a Las Vegas training seminar in October 2014 on officer-involved shootings. “In addition to our own experience, we’re getting trained by other lawyers,” Woronko said, adding one of the speakers had been to 1,500 officer-involved shootings.

“Having attorneys on this side of the state has increased our response time to these things,” Woronko said, adding POLC legal offices are based in Troy. “I’m able to go to the department if I have to, even to Battle Creek. Just having the coverage around the state is something the POLC has done that other unions haven’t.”

Woronko said legal services are not just for officer-involved shootings. They are also for any legal or criminal issues that might arise with an officer being investigated.

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