Charge alleges GRPD officer ‘carelessly’ fired gun

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids police officer faces a misdemeanor charge for firing a shot that damaged a home — a shot that police say was on accident.

A count of careless discharge of a firearm causing property damage less than $50 has been issued against Officer Gregory Bauer. The maximum penalty for that misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a fine of $100.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said at a Friday afternoon press conference he found no evidence that there was intent to cause harm and that Bauer had cause to draw his weapon, so he determined an assault charge was not appropriate. Getting into some legal minutiae, Becker decided Bauer was not reckless but that his behavior did meet the definition for carelessness.

“It’s carelessness. This was not intentional, this is not malicious,” Becker said. “This was something that shouldn’t have happened, obviously, but it did, and based on all the facts and circumstances that I’ve reviewed, I felt there’s a sufficient basis to file this careless discharge charge.”

On Dec. 9, the Grand Rapids Police Department was looking for a stolen car and a suspect who was believed to be armed. Police thought they saw the car parked at a home on Cass Avenue SE near Sycamore Street, so they set up a perimeter and waited for the driver to come out. When he did, Bauer ran toward him down a slope and his gun went off.

The bullet hit a building. No one was hurt.

Police on scene after the incident in the area of Cass Avenue and Sycamore Street SE on Dec. 9, 2021.

The driver turned out not to be the person police were looking for. He wasn’t driving the same model car.

“I go down the stairs and I get to the sidewalk, and I see movement coming from the left of me and I thought somebody was trying to rob me because it is a high crime area that I was in,” the driver, Daevionne Smith, 30, previously told News 8. “I look to my left and I kind of got scared and I … ran to my right and I made it like 5 to 7 feet, and I heard a gunshot go off. And when I heard the gunshot go off, I fell to the ground and that’s when I heard ‘Freeze! Get down on the ground.’”

GRPD: No injuries after officer may have unintentionally shot gun

He said he hurt his arm in the fall and that the experience was traumatic because he is a cousin of Breonna Taylor, a Grand Rapids native who was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police in March 2020.

“It really didn’t hit me until I was in the back of the police car and now I’m really thinking what just happened to me and I started dropping a couple tears because it brought me back to Breonna, because this stuff happens so much in our community,” said Smith. “Every day it’s a thought that, ‘What if one day it’s me?’”

It’s unclear when Bauer will be formally arraigned. Becker said the court will issue a summons for that. He added that Bauer has been cooperative.

News 8 has requested a copy of the officer’s body camera video and sent payment to fill that open records request. GRPD said Friday afternoon that while the request had been approved, staffing shortages meant it wouldn’t actually be it released for four to five months.

Bodycam videos are vital to demonstrate to the public exactly what happened the night of the shooting. News 8 hopes GRPD will follow through on promises to be more transparent and release the video immediately.

—News 8 News Director Stanton Tang contributed to this report.

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