A 20-year-old university student in Michigan is hospitalized and in serious condition after police shot the man Wednesday while serving a drug warrant. He was unarmed, investigators said.
Coming through an apartment's back door, an Ottawa County deputy allegedly shined a flashlight into the student's face, causing him to raise his right hand in front of his eyes.
The officer, whose name was not released, fired a single bullet into Derek Copp's chest. The 20-year-old Grand Valley State University student, who survived the shooting, said he had no idea the man was an officer.
"He never even had a chance to even see who was coming at him, with a bright flashlight in his face," said Sheryl Copp, Derek's mother, in a 24 Hour News 8 report. "He had no clue. He heard someone knock on his door, and he had no clue."
Copp's parents insist their son is not a drug dealer. However, he appears to be a marijuana activist, stating on his facebook page he likes to "SMOKA DA BOLSKI" (smoke a 'bowl') and on his YouTube page, in a video titled 'Hippie Lunchtime Hour,' he makes references to baking marijuana-infused brownies. In another, he plays the fictional role of an acid dealer whose friend goes on a psychedelic journey through cliché colors.
Copp's parents were not notified of the shooting by police, reported CelebStoner. They allegedly found out six hours later.
The officer is on paid administrative leave. Police have not said whether they found any drugs in Copp's apartment.
Monday, a group of about 25 protesters gathered outside the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department holding signs which read, "Don't shoot, I'm unarmed" and "Why did you shoot my friend?"
"I want to know what brought the Enforcement Team to Derek's apartment and why a firearm was discharged," wrote University President Thomas Haas in a Monday e-mail sent to police and student activists.
"The fact that this incident took place off-campus diminishes neither my interest nor my concern," he said in a report by MLive.com.
Jim DeVries with the Police Officers Association of Michigan "said the deputy is required by contract to give a statement in any internal sheriff's department investigation that could impact his job, but it cannot be used by prosecutors for any criminal charges," reported MLive.com. "So far, no internal statement has been requested."
"DeVries said it is not unusual for a union-represented officer to forgo speaking with investigators in a shooting incident and he does not think it gives an appearance of wrongdoing."
"Derek Copp's family, meantime, has hired Grand Rapids Attorney, Fred Dilley," reported ABC WZZM 13. "In a statement, he says, 'We have some very important questions about what appears to be some shocking police activity.' Dilley says his client is making a satisfactory, but guarded recovery. The bullet tore through his upper right lung and liver and damaged two ribs.
"As for the protesters, their voices were heard by the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. After a brief meeting, they decided to sit down and discuss the issue as soon as the investigation is complete."
"Organizers said the next major event planned is a march 1 p.m. Friday in Grand Rapids," reported Holland Sentinel.
National media has been absent on the case and local media has focused on 'irrelevancies,' noted Michigan Messenger's Ed Brayton.
"The Grand Rapids Press took a look at Copp’s Facebook page and found that it had 'drug references,' as though that had some bearing on whether he should have been shot or not. They found out that the student had expressed 'his advocacy and interest in reforming marijuana laws' and that he had declared himself to be a 'left wing hippie peace-keeping liberal.'
"But wait, there’s more. He had advocated the passage of last fall’s proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan. And he liked the movie Drugstore Cowboy, as well as - gasp! - Martin Scorcese movies. Worst of all, he had quoted Grateful Dead lyrics.
"This strikes me as the drug war equivalent of asking what a rape victim was wearing."
Copp reportedly wants to be a filmmaker and said he may produce work based on the shooting.
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday March 16, 2009