DA: Officers justified in shooting Beloit man

Officers who shot and killed a 23-year-old Beloit man last month have been cleared by the district attorney.

Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary said Wednesday that the three officers — Sgt. Dan Tilley, Officer Brian Miller and Officer Seth Hendricks of the Beloit Police Department — who fired on Darrius Lowery-Baptiste on June 11 during a traffic stop were justified in their actions.

“After reviewing the reports, the autopsy findings, video and audio recordings of the incident and numerous eye witness statements, it is clear that the Beloit Police officers acted lawfully and in accordance with their duty as a sworn law enforcement officers,” O’Leary said in a statement Wednesday.

O’Leary said Tilley, Miller and Hendricks were conducting a traffic stop and Lowery-Baptiste was wanted by the Department of Corrections and for questioning in connection with another Beloit case. Lowery-Baptiste ignored officer commands to exit his car and officers were unable to enter it, the statement said.

The district attorney said Lowery-Baptiste’s car, which was boxed in by police squads, began moving forward pushing Tilley’s car. O’Leary said O’Leary turned the wheels toward the officer and squealed his tires, the car charging Tilley.

That’s when the officers shot multiple rounds at Lowery-Baptiste; he died on the scene.

“[The officers] were protecting not only Sgt. Tilley’s life, but the lives of the numerous other civilians who were in and around the vicinity of the incident and who were potential victims of Baptiste’s life-threatening behavior,” O’Leary said.

A handgun was found near Lowery-Baptiste’s body at the scene and plastic bags of suspected crack cocaine were found in his pocket, the statement said.

In a separate statement, the Beloit police chief, Norm Jacobs, said he supported the district attorney’s decision and that the officers are anxious to return to work.

The chief also said the department will conduct its own review of the incident, though the statement did not indicate a timeframe.

Jacobs said the officers will return to duty after completing a process used by police organizations after fatal on-duty incidents.

The Beloit Police Department said Tilley, 53, has 18 years of law enforcement experience; Miller, 44, has 14 years on the job; and Hendricks, 26, has three years of service.