From that review, State’s Attorney Scott Rueter determined that the officers’ actions did not violate Illinois law and were a necessary response to the actions of suspect Jamontey Neal.
In a statement, Rueter said he used the reports generated by Decatur Police and investigative reports from the Illinois State Police to reach this conclusion. But the most important evidence he used was the footage recorded by the officers’ body and dashboard cameras.
“The investigation into the events of October 12 reveal that the officers involved had information, which turned out to be accurate, that the suspect individual had firearms, in violation of Illinois law,” Rueter said. “He was a felon, and not entitled to possession of any firearms. He had two.”
Rueter said the officers performed a traffic stop, based on a minor traffic violation, as allowed under Illinois law. During that stop, Rueter said Neal refused to comply with officers’ demands to show his hands. Because of this, officers drew their weapons, concerned that Neal might use the guns they suspected he was armed with.
Rueter said that before any shots were fired, one of the officers tried to grab Neal’s hand to prevent him from reaching for his guns. In doing so, he moved to holster his service weapon.
“It was at the opportunity of seeing the officer putting his weapon away that the suspect chose to draw his firearm and fire the first shot,” Rueter said.
From the physical evidence present, Rueter said the first gun Neal fired jammed. He then grabbed the second gun and fired all of the bullets in that gun. Sergeant Tyler Wittmer fell to the ground wounded after the first gun was fired and was completely exposed as Neal got out of the car armed with the second gun.
“His only recourse was to ensure the threat to himself and others was neutralized, and in so doing, was required to expend all rounds in his weapon as the suspect had done,” Rueter said.
“Therefore, I decline to hold that the officer’s actions in this circumstance were unwarranted,” Rueter concluded.
In conjunction with Rueter’s findings and decision, and after a “careful and thorough” internal review, Decatur Police Chief Shane Brandel said he too had decided that Wittmer, Austin Bowman and Ryan Ricker were justified to use deadly force. He added that the three were in compliance with Decatur Police policies and procedures throughout the incident.
“I hope with the closure of this case, we can begin to heal as a community and continue working together to keep our city safe,” Brandel said.