JACKSON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka has released a statement saying an officer was justified in shooting and killing a man in March.
Erik Poul Moller Nielsen, 36, of Brooklyn, Michigan passed away in Columbia Twp. on March 31, after being shot in an incident that involved an officer from the Columbia Township Police Department.
It happened in the 100 block of Hawthorne Dr. in the area of Lake Columbia, around 2:09 a.m.
The 36-year-old was pronounced dead on the scene.
Columbia Twp. officer Ben Hovarter was not injured and was placed on administrative leave per Columbia Township Police Department policy
“The Michigan State Police was requested by the Columbia Township Police Department to come in and do the investigation. Specifically, the first district special investigation section. Detectives from there are conducting the investigation,” continued Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Brian Buege.
Hovarter has been with the department for six years.
Jarzynka said he evaluated MSP police reports, body cam videos of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies who arrived on the scene, 552 photographs of the scene, 911 recordings and logs, home surveillance video recordings for the residence at 110 Hawthorn Drive, evidence collected at the scene, taser report, search warrants, autopsy and toxicology reports and the MSP Map of the scene and report.
Michigan State Police’s investigation report revealed the following:
- On March 31, 2022 at about 2:10 a.m., Columbia Township Police Officer Ben Hovarter was sent to a home at 110 Hawthorn Drive for a seizure.
- Jessica Nielsen called 911 for help because her husband, Erik Nielsen, was having a seizure. She told 911 that “her husband did not know what is going on.”
- Officer Hovarter entered the home going to the upstairs bedroom was able to contact Jessica and Erik Nielsen.
- Erik Nielsen pushed the police officer and became combative and began leaving the bedroom.
- Officer Hovarter responded by deploying his taser at least two times on Erik Nielsen. The taser had no effect.
- Erik Nielsen went down the stairs to the main floor with Officer Hovarter following him.
- Erik then ran outside, as did officer Hovarter.
The sequence of events that followed resulted in Erik Nielsen’s death. Officer Hovarter was not wearing a body cam, but he was wearing a microphone that was able to capture audio of the events that led up to Nielsen being shot by Hovarter.
The chase stopped when Erik Nielsen sat down on the back patio., officials said. Hovarter was trying to calm down Erik Nielsen and have him stay at the patio.
The 911 log reports show that from 2:21 a.m. to 2:26 a.m., Erik Nielsen remained seated on the back patio.
Hovarter then says that Erik Nielsen tried to hit him with a gas can, which Nielsen’s wife was able to corroborate in an interview.
Hovarter reported that Erik Nielsen was then tried hitting the officer with a stick, and then an axe, in which Hovarter reported “shots fired” to Dispatch.
Three bullet casings were found about 10 feet away from Erik Nielsen’s body in the grass, closer to the lakeshore, evidencing the location of the officer in the back yard at the time he discharged his service weapon.
Erik Nielsen had one visible wound to his neck and three taser probes were observed on his body.
Autopsy reports determined that Erik Nielsen died as a from multiple gunshot wounds and that he was under the influence of amphetamine and marijuana at the time of the shooting.
The gunshot wounds were found in the following area:
- Right Lateral Chest – The bullet entered the right chest area, perforated theright and left lungs, and ribs and was recovered in the left flank.
- Left back – The bullet entered the left back area, perforated the left lung, leftkidney and left psoas muscle, and was recovered in the left hip.
- Posterior Left Shoulder – The bullet entered the back of the left shoulder,perforated the left trapezius, C7 vertebral body and thyroid cartilage and exitedthe front of the neck.
According to Jarzynka, a review of the facts and the law, revealed that it was clear that Nielsen was an immediate danger of death or great bodily harm to Hovarter when he came at him with an axe.
“It is important to note that this part of the incident happened very quickly and happened in just a matter of seconds,” Jarzynka said in a released opinion. “Given all the corroborating evidence found and revealed in this investigation, it is my opinion that Officer Hovarter was justified in discharging his service weapon to protect his own life that night. This use of deadly force would certainly not rise to the level necessary to render criminal charges against this police officer.”