Michigan cop shoots unarmed, 20-year-old marijuana activist

By dark12 · Mar 17, 2009 · Updated Mar 17, 2009 · ·
  1. dark12
    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

    News Coverage:

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  1. Nature Boy
    Madness. Much as I feel sorry for this poor guy, his torment might do well for the legalisation movement. Shooting an unarmed man for no good reason is yet another example of how petty and futile the War on Drugs is. A gunshot to the chest though. That's bad news. I hope that this dude recovers fully and sues the pants off the police.
  2. Alfa
    Please stay on topic. Off-topic posts deleted.
  3. Woodman

    ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP -- Friends of Derek Copp cannot comprehend how he would pose a threat during a police raid of his Campus View apartment late Wednesday, or why a deputy shot and wounded an unarmed Copp.

    "Nobody wants to think those in the criminal justice system are shooting unarmed college students," said Laura Quist, a 19-year-old Grand Valley State University sophomore who lives in an opposite hallway from Copp, 20.

    Friends described Copp as an easygoing, guitar-playing young man.

    Students today continue to question what happened after five officers withthe West Michigan Enforcement Team, a regional drug unit, executed a drug-related search warrant on Copp's apartment. Copp, a film and video major, was shot in the upper right chest area with a Glock handgun after police came through a back glass slider door.

    Copp was listed in serious condition at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

    Police on Thursday said there was no confrontation and did not think Copp was trying to flee, but did not divulge details about what led to the shooting.
    A student neighbor of Copp, Joe Putra, said he was surprised by the raid.
    "He wasn't a real shady kid," Putra said. "It wasn't like he was trying to hide anything."

    The unidentified deputy who fired the shot, a 12-year Ottawa County sheriff's veteran with a good record, is on paid leave pending a Michigan State Police investigation. He was assigned to WEMET two years ago.

    State police Lt. Cam Henke would not disclose whether police found drugs in Copp's apartment or what kind of drug they were seeking. The search warrant was for an "ongoing narcotics investigation."

    He said drug raids at GVSU happen occasionally.

    David Bearss, a friend of Copp, questions why police knocked on his rear sliding door instead of going to the front door. Apartments at the complex are accessible 24 hours a day.

    He calls Copp one of the happiest, friendliest guys he knows and suggested police did not properly identify themselves.
    "If they said it was the police, Derek wouldn't have done anything different and I can't imagine he did anything to justify getting shot," Bearss said.
    "These guys have all this weapons training to control their guns and it doesn't seem like any of it was used here."

    Authorities would not say whether anyone else was in the apartment. Bearss knew nothing of Copp being involved with drugs. Another friend of Copp, Dan Fischer, accused police of overreacting.

    "Maybe he stood up too fast, I don't know. But I don't think they should be shooting first and asking questions later," he said.

    Fischer was not sure of any drug use.

    "If anything, he had some weed in there. I'm pretty sure he wasn't growing it," he said.

    The owner of Campus View Apartments, Brian Gardner, called the shooting an isolated incident and said staff makes a point of knowing the tenants. The 372-unit complex, just off campus, is home to the university's more studious students and tenants are required to sign a "no party" agreement, he said.

    Gardner said he would have investigated Copp's unit himself, and probably evicted him, if other tenants had notified him of their drug suspicions. Still, he described the tenants of the raided apartment as "nice kids."
    "It just seems like there could have been a less tragic outcome," he said.

    Copp, a Spring Arbor native, has been at GVSU since 2007, the same year he graduated from Jackson Community College, according to his Facebook page.

    He identifies himself as "a left-wing hippie peace-keeping liberal." Copp plays the guitar and often volunteers at music festivals to see favorite bands for free, his social networking page states.

    Music and film are prime influences in his life, listing jambands Phish, Grateful Dead and Umphrey's McGee as his favorites.

    Copp expects to graduate from Grand Valley in 2011. He has held several jobs including selling college gear at football games and making pizzas at Peppino's Ristorante Pizzeria and Sports Bar.

    Peppino's co-owner Carlo Dileonardo described Copp as a good kid and said the shooting upset workers at the Allendale eatery.

    "Everyone's surprised because we've never seen him out of line or anything other than being a hard worker," Dileonardo said. "It's shocking.

  4. Alias: V
    I can't imagine how furious I would be if I were Copp. I really hope the best for him. It makes me so mad that a police officer can walk into someone else's house, unannounced and unprovoked, and shoot a person in the chest; then go and take a paid vacation. Since when are police above the law?
  5. fnord
  6. SullyGuy
    Good lord!

    This is horrible! I hope he takes that cop to court for all hes worth...
  7. chillinwill
    Michigan student shot by deputy to be sentenced

    GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Valley State University student who was shot by police during a raid on his off-campus apartment faces sentencing on a drug charge.

    Twenty-year-old Derek Copp of Spring Arbor was to appear Monday in Ottawa County Circuit Court for sentencing. He pleaded guilty to a felony marijuana charge in June.

    Copp admitted selling marijuana to an undercover police officer.

    Copp was unarmed when Ottawa County Sheriff's deputy Ryan Huizenga shot him once in the chest March 11 while executing a search warrant at Copp's apartment. Huizenga was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to reckless discharge of a firearm and later returned to duty.

    Associated Press
    August 10, 2009
  8. fnord
    I would of gone for jury nullification...

    What? If this was me id be facing attempted murder charges! If abuses of power just keep continuing like this the people will have enough of bullshit like this and we will rise up and take direct action,just like when people had enough of the police brutality in greece, or the rodney king riots.
  9. flowergirl
    Being from Grand Rapids, Michigan and only about 15 minutes from where this heinous occurrence took place, I can update all who are interested that Derek has made a full recovery, though in referendum for his suffering, he was sentenced to jail time for distributing. The officer was reinstated and there has been no word on Copp filing any charges. Where's the justice?
  10. dyingtomorrow
    This kind of bullshit happens more often than you think. 99% of the time the cops cover it up with a good enough excuse that it flies under the radar. The 4 years SWIM was at college, 4 unarmed students were shot to death. One of them in the back as he was climbing a fence, the other in the back while running. One in a car as he was driving away; the officer said he tried to "hit" him, which was completely contradicted by witnesses. As SWIM recalls, the officers got suspended while it was investigated, and then were reinstated later.

    A little more recently, there was that case where the cops raided an apartment and shot a bunch of stoners playing Playstation, saying they thought the controllers were guns. Fucking animals.
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