By Gari Voss
Allegan County Prosecuting Attorney Myrene Koch released a statement to the media that the officer involved in the Joseph Nagle shooting on June 16, 2022 would not be criminally charged. After an intensive investigation using numerous sources, “the evidence proves the actions were justified under extreme circumstances.”
The announcement and release of the findings began another round of public media responses. A number supporting the decision after reviewing the evidence and several insisting that a gun should not have been the weapon of choice.
The Officer’s Account
The testimony of the officer involved indicated that Nagle had been pulled over because he was driving erratically across miles of country road. “Notably, the deputy observed the Impala swerve over the yellow line in the center of the road and then swerve back over the fog line on the right side of the lane.”
When approaching the car, the officer detected the smell of marijuana. Nagle did step out of his vehicle, and the deputy began administering the field sobriety test. Before beginning the sobriety test, Nagle had to retrieve his glasses from his car.
Nagle had difficulties with the test and became anxious. The actions turned into yelling then Nagle turned and walked away from the officer. When the officer restrained Nagle’s hands to arrest him, he became more agitated.
Nagle repeatedly hit then head butted the officer on the left side of the head. As the officer felt lightheaded and on the verge of dropping to the ground, s/he acted by pulling a gun, pointing it at Nagle and pulling the trigger.
Throughout the stop, the officer had been sending radio messages. First to report the traffic stop, next to request backup, again to indicate the sobriety test, and to call in “shot fired” and request an ambulance.
The officer began CPR on Nagle until a first responder arrived and took over CPR. As others arrived, an AED was used.
The deputy was checked and found to have elevated blood pressure and was transported to a hospital where he was treated for “traumatic injury to the head; facial swelling and contusions; TMJ (temporal mandibular joint) disfunction; and hematoma of scalp.”
Autopsy and Release
The autopsy was performed at 0725 hours on June 17, 2022. Upon completion of the examination, the body was cleared for release to the family of the decedent the same day of June 17, 2022. However, the body was actually released on July 15, 2022 at 2:36p.m. after the family indicated their funeral home preference.
There were injuries, contusions and abrasions on the backs of Nagle’s knuckles of the right hand, plus on his forehead above the right eye, brow and temple area.
The toxicology report showed positive results for both cocaine and cannabinoids in the urine. Delta-9 THC and Carboxy THC were detected in the iliac blood.
The taser was found to be in working order, but at the close distance, it would not have been effective in penetrating the clothing and reaching the skin for a “drive stun”.
It was discovered that on June 15, 2022, Nagle offered to sell a friend cocaine. The friend said that Nagle was aggressive and became more so when the friend declined to purchase the cocaine.
Coworkers shared that Nagle had a quick temper and admitted to using cocaine. The coworker warned Nagle that he could lose his job for using and believed that the fear of job loss may have triggered the aggressive behavior during the traffic stop.
Other friends of Nagle verified that he had been using both cocaine and methamphetamine. One indicated that Nagle had been getting “increasingly violent”.
On June 16th, Nagle had been a fill-in delivery driver, and had displayed bizarre behavior as he mumbled to himself and stumbled around. During this time, he spoke inappropriately to a female at one of the businesses. That same day, he delivered a package to a private home and again was inappropriate to the female resident.
Use of Force Policy
“The United States Supreme Court has ruled that an officer’s use of force will be judged in light of an objectively reasonable standard. This reasonableness shall be determined by balancing the nature and quality of the intrusions with the countervailing governmental interests. The standard takes into consideration the severity of the crime; whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. This reasonableness shall be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and at the moment the force is used, rather than from 20/20 hindsight, and will take into consideration the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving. Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).”
To determine the reasonable action, the investigation teams went through the checklist of circumstances to determine the appropriate level of response. The use of “deadly force” is deemed appropriate to protect another person or the officer from an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.
By examining the timeline constructed using radio activity, injuries to both the deputy and Nagle, information obtained from friends and co-workers regarding drug use and behavior, and the fact that Nagle was an experienced wrestler with a high degree of skill, the decision of the deputy to use a firearm during this altercation was decided to be “reasonable under the extreme circumstances in applying the standards set forth by law.”
As a result, there will be no criminal charges against the deputy.
For those in law enforcement, having family or friends in law enforcement, or knowledgeable regarding investigations involving the discharging of a firearm, the responses often began with acknowledging feelings of loss to Nagle’s family and friends. At the same time, there was reference to the findings of the investigation that involved the Michigan State Police, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and Allegan City Police.
The scene logs and lab reports supported what had been conveyed regarding the sequence of events between the officer and Nagle and the injuries to the officer and Nagle. The medical records and toxicology reports also substantiated the use of drugs.
On the scene, there was camera footage from responding agencies even though the deputy did not have a dash or body camera.
Prior to the altercation, information from friends, colleagues and customers supported the fact that Nagle had been acting irrationally. This was in addition to attempting to sell illicit substances.
Responses from some still wanted to know why the deputy had to use his gun. There was the reference that the toxicology results had to be done more than once and that the deputy failed to call for backup. In addition, a few voiced that the reports are bias in favor of the deputy.
In hindsight, the deputy could have waited for backup before attempting to arrest Nagle. The question comes regarding protocol in this situation. When the deputy felt in fear of life, what were the other options to using a firearm?
At the same time, Nagle could have followed instructions rather than resisting arrest. Why was there marijuana in his car? Why was he so aggressive during a traffic stop?
One of the truths to learn could rest on the belief that when a person is displaying aggressive action, and when that person is known to be using drugs, it is time for family and friends to step forward and demonstrate some tough love.
Joey Nagle had some great qualities and some problems with which he could have received assistance. He made some decisions and lost his life.
A deputy made a decision that will remain with him/her for the rest of their life.
Does anyone come out of this incident unscathed?