Shot dead by police in front of mother and sister
compiled from various sources – October 2017
submitted by Falak Bibi
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
On 9 November 2004, a Kenosha police officer shot 21 year-old Michael Bell in the head one day before he was due to testify at a court hearing regarding a previous incident with the same officer who stopped him this last fatal time.
Dash cam footage from inside the police squad car shows Bell exiting the vehicle he was driving, where he was confronted by an officer. The two walked off-camera, where police tried to arrest him. A struggle ensued, and while his mother and sister watched from the family home, Michael was shot, point-blank, in the head.
The shooting marked yet another deadly Kenosha police shooting – the fourth such incident since December 2003. In the 14 years before that, there were just two fatal shootings by officers.
In that fateful night Michael and his friend, Brian Rocoo, were driving home. On their journey they passed two officers who were standing and talking with their vehicle lights flashing. It was at this point officer Strausbaugh and officer Weidner felt the need to get into their vehicle and follow the two friends home.
Once the friends reached Michael’s home the officers jumped out and shouted “Get back in the car”, but it was stated Michael did not hear the officer at this moment, it was when he physically got out the officer shouted again, “Get back in the car.” Brian also confused shouted “what the heck, we didn’t do anything wrong.”
It was stated that when Michael finally exited the vehicle, officer Strausbaugh then attacked him by placing his hand on his throat causing him difficulties in breathing and pushed him back into the vehicle. Throughout Michael explained he had done nothing wrong and he was not at fault of anything, he further went on to ask for what reason and for what wrongdoing the officer felt the need to stop him. Officer Strausbaugh told Michael he had “ran through a stop sign.”
The officers’ actions had escalated to the point where Michael’s family were woken up by the commotion. As he tried moving away he was dragged and thrown over the car causing him to bleed, Strausbaugh also claimed that Michael had tried taking his gun away from him despite the fact that neighbours, family members and CCTV showed his hands were handcuffed therefore there was no possibility that he could have even touched the gun.
Gina Barton, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s law enforcement investigative reporter, who had covered the story, said that what led to the shooting was the fact that one of the officers shouted, “He’s got my gun, and another officer thought that Mike Bell was trying to disarm his partner.”
Barton said that Michael’s mother and sister, who were watching the disturbance, heard the officer as well and they tried to yell that Michael Bell did not have the officer’s gun. “But apparently, they either didn’t hear that or disregarded it.”
In response to concerns raised about the shooting a police spokesperson said; “The use of a Conducted Energy Weapon [taser] has been authorized by the Kenosha Police Department and may be used by trained personnel when a subject is threatening to actively resist, or is actively resisting an officer.”
The Kenosha County District Attorney Robert J. Jambois declined to charge the officers, and said that they had acted with “courage and distinction. The only person responsible for Michael Bell’s death, is Michael Bell.”
Michael’s family did not accept this line of argument and subsequently waged a grassroots campaign to stop DA Jambois (a district attorney for 16 years), from being elected a judge. They paid $80,000 for ads about the case in newspapers around the country, including The New York Times.
They also spent countless weekends leafleting the public to help raise enough awareness and bring about changes in Kenosha police practice. “My number one goal is, I don’t want this to happen to another kid. I don’t want any other family to have to go through what we went through,” said Michael Bell’s father.
The recent spate of deadly force incidents by Kenosha police, along with an unprecedented publicity campaign waged by the Bell family, garnered national attention and may have helped to influenced major police and judicial policy reforms in the region.
In November 2010 police officer Erich R. Strausbaugh, involved in Michael’s fatal shooting, committed suicide. He was having marital problems and had been stressed in the aftermath of the shooting.
In Wisconsin, a decade-old police shooting leads to new law
13 December 2014
What I did after police killed my son
15 August 2014
Shooting stirs up man’s family
5 June 2005