FLINT TWP. — Officer shot. Those distressing words triggered a concerted response by law enforcers to a dangerous scene unfolding just over a year ago at the Hometown Inn on Miller Road.
“More often than not, law enforcement is s team effort in which members of different units come together with a common goal,” said Police Chief George Sippert, at an awards ceremony last week at which 13 law enforcement officers were presented medals and citations for their actions on that fateful night.
Six township police officers, two Swartz Creek police officers, three Michigan State Troopers, two Sheriff’s Deputies and one county 911 police dispatcher received recognition and hearty applause.
“We wish to recognize some of the officers who contributed to great public service within our community by demonstrating bravery, sacrifice, diligence and courage,” said Chief Sippert, as he recounted the harrowing events of that night.
It began at about 10:30 p.m. on Friday, January 23, when Officer Michael Schuyler was on routine patrol on Miller Road. Observing from a parked location near the Hometown Inn, a known trouble spot, Officer Schuyler saw a van drive up occupied by two people. As the van drove out of sight into the parking lot of the Hometown Inn, Officer Schuyler learned from a license plate query on his car computer that the registered owner of the van was wanted on three outstanding arrest warrants.
Officer Schuyler followed the van into the Hometown Inn parking lot where he found the van occupants unloading items outside of Room 305. Officer Schuyler exited his vehicle and approached the driver of the van. After confirming that he was the owner of the van, Officer Schuyler told him he was under arrest.
As he proceeded take the suspect into custody, a scuffle ensued. Officer Schuyler called for backup on his portable radio. As the scuffle continued, Officer Schuyler heard two gunshots and felt a burning sensation on his left arm and side.
Realizing he had been shot, Officer Schuyler disengaged and sought cover in a nearby parking lot. He notified police dispatch that he had been shot. Several police officers patrolling the area responded.
Before backup arrived, the suspect who was armed with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol fired several more shots at Officer Schuyler but missed, Chief Sippert said.
Via radio, Officer Schuyler informed responding officers that the suspect had entered his van and was driving away. Swartz Creek Officers Nicholas Paul and Terry VanKeuren Jr. were first to arrive on the scene where they observed the fleeing suspect. Officer Paul drove his vehicle through a snow bank to position it behind the van and Officer VanKeuren stopped his patrol car directly behind Officer Paul.
The suspect drove his van in reverse and crashed into Officer Paul’s vehicle. He then jumped from the van and began firing at Officer Paul who was still seated inside his patrol car. Officer Paul returned fire through his open window, striking the suspect several times. Officer VanKeuren’s vehicle also was struck by bullets. Officer Schuyler, though wounded, approached and fired twice at the suspect.
Flint Township Neal Donovan arrived during the shooting and positioned his patrol car in a location perpendicular to the suspect’s van. Fearing that more shooters might be hiding in the van, posing a danger to other officers, he retrieved his rifle and approached the van.
Other township officers, state troopers and sheriff’s department paramedic deputies arrived on the still active scene to help secure the van and evidence, take the wounded but resisting suspect into custody, and attend the medical needs of the suspect and Officer Schuyler.
Both the officer and the suspect were taken to the hospital. Officer Schuyler was treated for gunshot wounds to his elbow and rib cage. Luckily. one bullet struck him in an area covered by his body armor.
Michigan State Police troopers kept the suspect under police guard at the hospital.
From beginning to end of this hectic incident, the “steady, professional voice” of Genesee County 911 Emergency Dispatcher Katie Bennett helped officers make sense of the rapidly transpiring crime scene, Chief Sippert said.
All officers involved “exemplified selfless conduct during a time of crisis and perseverance under the most challenging situation an officer can face,” Chief Sippert said.
For his bravery, Officer Michael Schuyler received the Medal of Valor, Police Heart and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)/ DuPont Kevlar Survivor’s Club Award.
The Medal of Valor is the highest award issued by the township police department, Chief Sippert said, adding that Officer Schuyler has received numerous awards during the last year as a result of the shooting. The latest from the IACP is presented to officers who survive a life threatening incident because of wearing personal body armor.
A Medal of Distinguished Service was presented to Flint Twp. Officers Rob Cavett and Neal Donovan for their work in aiding Officer Schuyler and arresting the suspect.