Post last updated at 8:28 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1:
Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez has determined that the Lawrence police shooting of Michael Blanck was “legally justified,” according to a news release Thursday afternoon.
Police shot and killed Blanck, 43, the evening of Sunday, Oct. 2, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Valdez released her decision along with a 30-page report.
“The death of Michael Blanck is a tragedy that had the potential to end much worse,” Valdez said in the release. “We have met with Mr. Blanck’s family to express our condolences and to review my findings following the investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI). The officers involved in this incident acted lawfully and were legally justified in their response to the actions taken by Mr. Blanck. The integrity of this investigation was important to all involved and our community and I would like to thank the KBI for its thoroughness and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for securing the scene following the incident.”
According to information released by the KBI in the days following the shooting, LPD officers were dispatched to the home in the 1700 block of East 21st Terrace around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2 for a report of a burglary and broken window. Officers learned that a man was likely inside and the homeowner was not present, the KBI’s release stated.
Officers had been dispatched to the home “numerous times regarding family concern about Blanck’s mental health and his unlawful presence at the residence that belonged to his father, G.B., who is elderly and has cancer,” according to Valdez’s report.
On this call, officers decided not to enter the home until they could get Blanck’s father’s permission. Once they were able to reach G.B., they started planning to enter the residence, one of the officers said, according to the report.
The officers were aware of family members’ concerns about Blanck’s mental health, according to the report. The day before the shooting, a family member had retrieved AK-47 and AK-15 rifles and secured them in a safe “because, at some point, Blanck had access to these rifles and he had waved them around the front yard of the residence,” according to the report.
But “the officers engaged in a threat assessment, and they did not believe that the (Crisis Intervention Team) was necessary.”
Blanck eventually came out of the home, and officers attempted to talk with him, according to the report. They were planning to arrest Blanck for violating no-contact orders within the previous couple of days.
Then Blanck pulled out a handgun and pointed it at officers, according to Valdez’s report.
“The KBI Forensic Laboratory determined that the firearm Blanck brandished was not fired, but that a round was chambered and the gun was ready to be fired,” the report states.
Three of the five responding officers fired at Blanck, and he was struck with eight rounds.
Two officers fired one shot each; the third fired 18 shots, according to the report. The third officer wasn’t sure how many times he had fired, but he knew he’d emptied his 17-round magazine and then reloaded, according to the report. None of the officers’ names have been released.
Once Blanck was down, he was not responding to commands. An officer commanded a patrol service dog to drag Blanck away from where the officers thought the gun could be, one of the officers said, according to Valdez’s report.
Blanck was pronounced dead at the scene.
“When Blanck brandished a handgun and pointed it at Officer 1, the other officers immediately reacted and fired at Blanck to protect themselves and the civilians who were nearby,” Valdez’s report states.
“The investigation reveals that Blanck appeared to have shot his firearm at Officer 1, who had fallen backwards to the ground,” the report continues. “Officer 1 was directly in front of Blanck and was attempting to execute Blanck’s arrest when he fell. The civilian witnesses all believed that Blanck fired his gun at Officer 1. Officer 2 discharged his firearm at Blanck because from his vantage point he believed that Blanck was shooting at Officer 3.”
Valdez concluded that under the totality of the circumstances, the three officers “acted with deliberation, diligence, and urgency in executing their public safety duties” and were immune from prosecution.
A few hours after the shooting, when the KBI and a volunteer chaplain went to notify Blanck’s wife, she indicated that she “was not surprised to hear the news that Blanck was dead,” the report states. “She indicated that she tried numerous times to get him help, but all her efforts were unsuccessful.”
She said Blanck had been sober for 10 years, until January 2022, and she believed he was in legal trouble because he had started drinking heavily again, according to the report. There was a no-contact order in place in one criminal case where she was a witness; Blanck was unable to stay at their Eudora home and “was very upset about this,” she said, according to the report.
Another family member said she “knew that Blanck has been incarcerated in the past. She had heard from family members that he did not want to go back to jail, and that perhaps the incident was a ‘suicide by cop thing,'” according to the report.
Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart said in a statement that he wanted to thank Valdez “for her conscientious review and well thought out decision regarding this tragic event.”
“I also want to thank the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for their thorough investigation of the incident,” Lockhart said. “When faced with an imminent confrontation with an armed individual, the officers performed their duties admirably. This situation is tragic for the Blanck family and for the officers as well. Our thoughts are with the Blanck family as they continue to process the loss of their family member.”
The officers have returned to active duty, LPD confirmed.
Valdez’s full report is below:district-attorney-suzanne-valdezs-report-officer-involved-shooting-1715-e-21st-terrace
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