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GRPD officer on leave after unintentionally firing weapon; man nearly struck calls for accountability

Daevionne Smith, who said he was nearly struck by the bullet during the incident, is Breonna Taylor's cousin.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan State Police is investigating a firearms discharge incident involving a Grand Rapids Police officer after he unintentionally fired his weapon.  

The incident happened Thursday around 10:30 p.m. on the city's southeast side in the area of Cass Ave and Sycamore Street SE.

Daevionne Smith, who said he was nearly struck by the bullet during the incident, is calling for the officer and department to be held accountable because he claims he could've been killed. 

"It was a mistake, but it could've been a really bad mistake if my life was gone," Smith said. "It would've been a second death from my family because of the police."

RELATED: Police investigating after officer in pursuit of subject discharges weapon, strikes house

Smith's family has already gone through one tragedy. His cousin is Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville detectives during a botched narcotics raid in March 2020. He said he and his family have been carrying the burden of lack of justice in her death and now they're having to relive a whole new trauma.

Smith claims he was leaving his father's apartment building on Dec. 9 when he was approached by GRPD officers who had set up a perimeter around the building.

"I just got to seeing movement on my left side," Smith said. "I ran to my right and once I got to five feet of running like a quick, little sprint, I heard a gunshot and when I heard a gunshot, I was like what's going on? What did I do? I thought I was hit by a bullet." 

According to news release Friday, an officer was running down a sloped area and preliminary information shows he unintentionally discharged his gun. No one was hurt but the bullet struck Smith's father's apartment building, though it did not penetrate it. 

"If that was me with a gun and the gun went off mistakenly because I was running, I would've had either 100 shots in me or I would've had 100 charges against me," Smith said. 

Police said they believed Smith's car matched the description of a stolen car that had been reported to have two firearms in it at the time of the theft and was believed to have been involved in more crimes. 

Turns out, it wasn't the stolen car they were looking for and Smith was the wrong guy. 

"Those officers all should be held accountable. They all failed. They failed to identify a vehicle. They failed to look at the badge that identified the vehicle. They failed to make proper contact with me instead of making me feel like I'm being ambushed or a murderer." 

During a news conference Tuesday morning, Police Chief Eric Payne said it's standard practice to check a vehicle's VIN number, but he isn't sure if that had been done this time around. 

"Standard, yes, but to get that close and look at the VIN, I don't know whether that was able to be accomplished that night," he said. "We'll find that out during the investigation."

Payne said he has not talked to Smith or the involved officers, as the investigation is ongoing. However, he did say he empathizes with Smith and will be glad to sit down with him once the investigation is complete. 

"This was a traumatic experience for everyone, especially Mr. Smith, who was the driver of the vehicle," Payne said. "We will learn from this and we will continue to try to do better with trying to keep this community safe."

Payne said the officer who fired the gun has been with the department for 20-plus years. He is now on leave as an internal affairs investigation is being completed, and Michigan State Police is reviewing the case.

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