Chesterton Tribune

Police shooting that resulted in accidental death ruled justified

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The Valparaiso Police officer whose discharged rifle bullet ricocheted and killed a woman on April 10 in an apparent hostage crisis was justified in shooting and will not be charged, the Porter County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said in a statement released today.

Marilyn B. Stephens, 74, of 1210 Fairlane St., died of a gunshot wound at Porter hospital after Officer Daniel Koepke fired at Stephen’s ex-husband, Timothy P. Stephens, 55, and his bullet ricocheted off a vehicle parked between Koepke and Timothy Stephens.

Timothy Stephens was armed at the time and threatening to kill his ex-wife, said the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, which was tasked with investigating the shooting.

On April 27 the PCSP submitted its report to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “After reviewing the report, Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel determined that the actions by Officer Koepke in attempting to use deadly force against Timothy Stephens were justified under the circumstances and that the death of Marilyn Stephens due to a ricochet was an unintended and tragic consequence of the otherwise legally justified action,” the statement said.

The VPD had responded to the scene after a relative called 911 and advised the dispatcher that Timothy Stephens was threatening to kill Marilyn Stephens and that he might be armed with a handgun. Officers arrived at the scene around 7:05 p.m., determined that a possible hostage situation was in progress, and secured the perimeter. A short time later Koepke made contact with Marilyn Stephens as she opened the door and instructed her to move away from the home.

At this point, the PCSP said, Timothy Stephens came to the door, armed with a handgun, and made several death threats against his ex-wife and police. He was then reported to have pointed his handgun in a threatening manner and Koepke responded by firing two rounds at him, the PCSP said.

Marilyn Stephens was seen to fall to the ground, and as Timothy Stephens was fleeing back into the residence officers picked her up, carried her away, and then discovered that she had been shot in the chest. She was rushed to Porter hospital but later pronounced dead.

Timothy Stephens subsequently surrendered to officers of the Porter County SWAT Team, who found several loaded weapons at the scene. He has been charged with criminal confinement, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20 years in prison; intimidation, a Class C felony, punishable by a term of two to eight years; and domestic battery, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a term of up to a year.


Posted 5/8/2007