Police shooting called self-defense
Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch
HUNTINGTON,WV -- The Huntington Police Department has identified Patrolman Ronnie Lusk as the officer who wounded a man after he fired at officers this past weekend in what authorities called a case of self-defense on the part of the officer.
The officer-involved shooting is Lusk's second in nearly 15 months.
The incident happened at about 1:20 a.m. Saturday. Authorities say Mitchell Lee Dunn, 51, fired five rounds at officers from his Jennings 9 mm handgun from the front porch of a residence in the 900 block of Washington Avenue.
Dunn was treated at Cabell Huntington Hospital and released. He is being held on $210,000 bail at Western Regional Jail on charges of wanton endangerment and attempted murder.
Police Chief Skip Holbrook outlined the events surrounding the shooting of Dunn during a press conference at police headquarters Monday afternoon.
According to a press release issued Saturday morning, officers responded to the Washington Avenue area after multiple calls from neighbors of shots fired. Police responded with a foot search, but were not able to locate anyone suspected of firing a gun. The release states that about 25 minutes later, multiple reports of gunshots in the area were received by Cabell County 911 Dispatch. Officers again responded to the area. While searching the area on foot, officers said they encountered an armed Dunn on the front porch of a Washington Avenue home. That's when Dunn reportedly pointed his weapon toward officers, fired, and was then shot.
"The suspect fired on officers and fire was returned, causing the suspect to retreat inside. He re-appeared a short time later, again aiming at the officers. The officer fired again and he retreated indoors and, this time, shut the door behind him," Holbrook said. "Officers said they heard a noise come from inside that sounded as though the suspect had fallen. They entered the residence and found the suspect, who had been shot twice, on the floor in the living room."
Dunn's wounds, one in the shoulder and one in the leg, were deemed non-life-threatening.
Holbrook said officers recovered three, spent 9 mm casings in the front yard, one on the front porch and another in the doorway. The 12-round magazine had six remaining live rounds, and Holbrook said it appears the gun malfunctioned and jammed during the altercation.
Saturday's officer-involved shooting was the second in a little more than a week in Huntington. On Jan. 14, officer Travis S. Hagan shot and killed Raymond Adkins, 59, just outside his Guyandotte home. Holbrook has called the killing justified, and said a preliminary investigation showed Adkins was shot as he barged out of the house and reached for an officer's bean-bag gun.
"In both instances, we have officers acting in defense of self or other officers against a person who took an aggressive stance," said Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles. "To serve and protect is dangerous. These officers put their lives on the line every day."
Holbrook said he believes that Dunn may have a criminal past, including a potential felony in Florida, and that it appears alcohol may have factored into Dunn's behavior at the time of Saturday's shooting.
"It does appear he was impaired to some degree," Holbrook said.
Lusk has been placed on administrative leave from the police department, which is standard procedure following such incidents, Holbrook said.
"Lusk was the first person at the corner of the building, which is why he would have been the first to engage the suspect," he said.
Holbrook said he remained confident in his officers and the department's ability to conduct thorough investigations into these types of situations.
"These are unfortunate incidents, tragic all around and nothing good comes from them," he said. "I think so long as we're prudent in how we conduct our investigation and offer a proper accounting on our part, we paint a picture of transparency in how we operate."
Lusk, a 5 1/2-year veteran of the Huntington Police Department and K-9 handler, was cleared of wrongdoing in an exchange of gunfire that killed Joe Porter at Club Babylon, a nightclub then located at 831 4th Ave., on Nov. 8, 2009. A police investigation into the Babylon shooting found Lusk justifiably fired in response to Porter pointing a .45-caliber handgun toward the patrolman. It also found that officers recovered a gun believed to have belonged to Porter at the scene.