‘Incidents weren’t that serious’; Kendallville police chief explains run-ins with Emmons before shootout

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 6:46 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Days after the shootout in Kendallville, our 21Investigates team overcovered police reports documenting prior run-ins with the shooter over the last two years. Why wasn’t the red flag law used prior to the incident?

Ten complaints dating back to 2021 showed 60-year-old Michael Emmons displaying erratic behavior, trespassing on property, threats to the community and possessing weapons. None of the reports reached criminal level.

One report says Emmons was seen on East Noble Middle School’s property numerous times. The report says that he “walked the entire perimeter of the building banging and pulling on doors.” He was observed talking to himself and praying. He also had a knife on his hip.

Another report shows Emmons left “threatening letters” on the doors of local churches. When police confronted him about the letters, they say Emmons said “Jehovah’s Witness drop off flyers to people so he didn’t see why he couldn’t.”

The most recent report was from last November. It says a neighbor called the police complaining Emmons had fired an arrow from his second-story apartment balcony. The neighbor wanted the arrow confiscated before a kid got hurt. Police took the arrow and Emmons denied it was his. In the reports, neighbors voiced concerns saying they were uncomfortable with Emmons’ behaviors.

An Indiana University law professor says Indiana’s red flag law could have prevented the shootout in the first place based on the evidence from these complaints.

Kendallville Police Chief Lance Waters says they couldn’t have used the red flag law because they never had any indication Emmons had a firearm. He says the law was never initiated because they never knew if he had a gun. He says they only knew he had a bow-and-arrow and a knife.

“In a search warrant, you have to indicate what you’re looking for and where it might be,” Waters said. “We can’t say, oh just because he has a bow-and-arrow he might have guns.”

Waters says the department never saw a legitimate threat from Emmons only evidence of mental health struggles. Waters says officers can choose to detain someone on the basis of crisis intervention if someone is showing signs of harming themselves or others. He says this would mean police could detain a person and hold them for 24 hours in a hospital under a mental crisis.

21Investigates reporter Karli VanCleave asked, why crisis intervention wasn’t a step taken prior to the shootout?

“We never got to the point where we felt we had enough to do the CIT,” Waters said. “The incidents weren’t that serious. Mr. Emmons was never putting himself or anyone else in danger. The closest we came to it was when he was on school property with a knife.”

Waters says just because someone is having a mental health episode doesn’t mean they can search their residence to see if they have firearms.

“They’re still protected under the 4th Amendment,” he said. “We never had any knowledge or did we ever gain knowledge in those encounters with Mr. Emmons that he had a firearm.”

21Investigates reached out to the Indiana State Police to find out the number of weapons that were removed from Emmons apartment. 21Alive witnesses weapons such as guns, bows, and even swords getting removed. Police say they are waiting on the prosecutors office to release that information.

Stay with us for updates.