Investigation finds officer justified in shooting

Tim Kozal, Manistee public safety director, held a press conference on Friday regarding an officer involved shooting that took place on March 28. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Tim Kozal, Manistee public safety director, held a press conference on Friday regarding an officer involved shooting that took place on March 28. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Police give details of events surrounding Milks’ death

MANISTEE — Three months after Lee Pat Milks was shot by a City of Manistee Police officer, some questions surrounding the incident now have answers.

Manistee public safety director Tim Kozal held a press conference on Friday afternoon in City Hall to give details of the investigation of the officer involved shooting that took place on March 28.

Kozal was joined by Manistee County Sheriff John O’Hagan, Lt. John Schneider, assistant post commander for the Cadillac Post, Sgt. Mike Fink, with the Michigan State Police, and members of the Manistee Fire Department.

On March 28, Milks, 73, of Manistee, was shot by a City of Manistee Police officer Doug Vansickle, who was conducting a blight investigation on the 400 block of Second Street.

Milks died from his injuries on March 29. He was transported to the then West Shore Medical Center, and was later taken to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids via helicopter.

Jason Haag, city prosecutor, gave a written opinion which Kozal read Friday, stating Vansickle shot Milks out of self defense based on the evidence.

“Officer Vansickle was justified in his actions, as he was acting in self defense,” Haag said. “Given the circumstances of this incident, the officer had an honest and reasonable belief that he was facing imminent danger of death or great bodily harm at the time that he discharged his weapon. Therefore, this shooting was justified.”

In review of the incident, Kozal said he stands with the final results of the investigation. He said the officer was in compliance with department policy.

“I am in concurrence with the findings of the Manistee County Prosecutor Jason Haag,” Kozal said. “I have determined that officer Vansickle acted in compliance with Manistee Police department policy, acted appropriately in his use of daily force and was completely justified in his actions.”

Kozal gave a full chronological report on the incident.

During a routine blight investigation, Vansickle made contact at Milks’ front door late in the afternoon on March 28.

“Mr. Milks was agitated that officer Vansickle was there,” Kozal said. “Officer Vansickle inquired if they could both go inspect the bus. Mr. Milks responded that officer Vansickle could inspect the bus, however he was going to get a gun.”

Vansickle retreated from the porch of Milks’ residence. Milks reappeared with an AK-47 rifle, Kozal said.

“Officer Vansickle observed Mr. Milks chamber a round into the rifle,” Kozal said. “Mr. Milks stated ‘I have silver bullets that are going to go through your vest.'”

Kozal said Vansickle tried to calm Milks down. However, Milks pointed the gun at the officer, who commanded him to put down the weapon.

“At this moment officer Vansickle was standing in front of Mr. Milks and was approximately five yards away,” Kozal said. “Mr. Milks gritted his teeth, positioned the rifle lower ready in a shooting stance and raised the riffle again at officer Vansickle.”

Kozal said the officer had no cover in his location. As a result, he fired his weapon seven times striking Milks.

Fink said about six of Vansickle’s shots hit Milks. He said it was hard to conclude this number.

“(Milks) was likely hit six times,” Fink said. “It is hard to say because of entry and exit wounds that could have been caused by one bullet, causing more than one (wound).”

Manistee County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police and Little River Band of Ottawa Tribal Police also responded to the scene that day. The investigation later was turned over to the Michigan State Police.

Kozal gave his respects to the family of Milks.

“The Manistee Department of Public Safety would like to extend their condolences to the Milks family as they deal with the loss of Mr. Milks in this unfortunate incident,” Kozal said. “I would also like to make sure that we all keep in mind the well-being of all public safety officers here in Manistee public safety, as we are faced with these life changing circumstances every day.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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