Below is the explanation of the case taken from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s web site. The text shown in black is the County’s version of the events of 6-22-03 . The text in red is commentary refuting the accuracy of the County’s report. Note that the prosecutor’s report is based solely upon the findings of the Oakland County Sheriff Department (OCSD). The very day of the killing, a request was made by the family to OCSD representatives on the scene to have the investigation done by the Michigan State Police (MSP) who would be more impartial and better trained (the OCSD forensic lab is not certified. The MSP lab is). After all, what incentive does the OCSD have except to prove that their people were innocent. Exoneration, not the truth, was their motivation. The request for independent investigation was flat out denied by OCSD detective Clay Jansen. After the Oakland County Prosecutor rendered his decision, a civil case was the only means remaining to secure the facts and get to the truth. Freedom of Information Act requests provided the OCSD audio and video evidence that plainly shows that the story painted by the OCSD is inaccurate and deceitful. A detailed expert forensic analysis of the death scene conclusively proves that Christopher was NOT on the stairs when he was shot. In fact, he was only moving towards the stairs when he was gunned to death. These analyses show that the OCSD crime scene investigators suspended their investigations prematurely when they could not prove what they were ordered to prove … that Chris was on the stairs. Sworn testimony by the OCSD's own investigating officers supports the fact that Christopher was not on the stairs.
The civil case was eventually settled out of court for an unprecedented amount. Although guilt was not admitted, the very magnitude of the settlement indicates that the County and its counsel realized the story told by the OCSD along with Wood and Terrell are riddled with inconsistencies and fabrications. The discovery phase of the civil case produced dozens of sworn depositions, expert witnesses and professional forensic investigations. This new evidence that was uncovered was unavailable to the prosecutor at the time he rendered his decision. Had it been, the decision justifying the officer’s actions may have very well been rendered differently and resulted in criminal prosecution. Until the criminal aspect of Wood and Terrell’s actions are reviewed in light of the new evidence, justice will not have been served.
This quest for truth and justice is far from over.
Sheriff's Deputies Justified in Shooting
Oakland County, Michigan (September 12, 2003) -- Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca today announced the results of his office's review of the June 22, 2003 fatal shooting of 16-year-old Christopher Drypen by two Oakland County Sheriff's Deputies. Gorcyca stated: "The death of Christopher Drypen was immensely tragic and very unfortunate. Certainly sympathies go out to the Drypen family. Understandably, the deputies who were forced to react to this life-threatening situation are also unsettled about the necessity of their actions. No officer relishes the use of deadly force; however, upon review of the facts, it is clear that both deputies were legally justified in the use of deadly force. (It is extremely important to understand that the entire investigation was performed ONLY by members of the Oakland Country Sheriff Department (OCSD), the very same organization for which the killing officers worked! Subsequent investigations proved that the work of the OCSD was incomplete and conducted in such a way as to lead to exoneration of the officers, not to find the truth).
Prosecutors reviewed over 200 pages of police and lab reports, as well as numerous videotapes, audiotapes and crime scene photographs. The 911-dispatch recording disclosed that Drypen's parents called police (This is not correct. The police were NEVER summoned by the family. The 911 call was made to get an AMBULANCE to transport Christopher to a hospital. Christopher’s father was prepared to confront him but he knew that he needed assistance to get Christopher to a hospital for observation. Instead of this plan playing out, the police took control when they arrived. They ordered the Drypens out of their own home and thus assumed the responsibility for the protection of Christopher who was a minor) seeking assistance in subduing their son and in an effort to take him to the hospital for an involuntary mental health commitment (Commitment paints a slanted picture. Observation would be a better term). The Drypens conveyed to the dispatchers that their son had psychiatric problems and was not taking his medication. The two responding deputies were greeted by the Drypen's who characterized Christopher as having a "psychotic episode" (Christopher was not described as being “psychotic”. There was only one other time a couple of months before when he behaved oddly. He would not have been described as being psychotic by his parents because no diagnosis was ever made. There was the possibility that he may have been bi-polar, but there was not enough history to arrive at that conclusion) and was "violent." (Christopher was never referred to as being “violent”. He was referred to as being agitated.) The Drypens also stated that Christopher had armed himself with a serrated steak knife (a small dinner knife) and was acting in an aggressive manner. (He was acting in a defensive, not aggressive manner) Ominously, (there was nothing ominous about this) the Drypens stated that the last time Christopher behaved out of control, it required four people to subdue him. (Christopher was not “out of control”. He simply refused to comply with the demands made by authorities at school. He was never violent. He did not need to be “subdued” but rather was behaving with passive resistance. The authorities chose to take the aggressive route of physically accosting him). The best evidence of what next transpired was an analysis of the squad car video systems, which were activated throughout the incident. (Actually, the videos show only the front of the house and offer no view of the lower level where the shooting took place.) Although the video portion revealed nothing except the house exterior, (This is incorrect. The videos show the parents at the time the first officers arrive tell them that there are no guns on the premises and that Christopher was definitely NOT suicidal. Subsequent lies spread to the press by the OCSD called this “suicide by cop” which was later disproved. The death was ruled a homicide, not a suicide by the County coroner who described the killing as an “execution”) the microphones affixed to the deputies' uniforms recorded most of what transpired. Those audiotapes corroborate the statements provided by the officers at the scene regarding the circumstances surrounding the shooting. (This is the most blatant of lies. The audio tapes from the open microphones in fact actually corroborate just the opposite. The tapes show officers Wood and Terrell attempting to engage Chris in conversation when they were warned not to do so because it only agitated him. The tapes show Terrell saying in response to a comment that the officers on the lower level with Chris had mace “I don’t fight knives with mace”. Terrell also responded to Christopher by saying “F*** HIM!”. Terrell continued on with “If he comes up here he’s dead” and “we have to do what we have to do, it’s his choice”. Seconds later Terrell’s partner Wood called to Chris to come over. When Chris did so he was immediately fired upon 18 before even making it to the stairs by Wood and Terrell, who had previously taken up firing positions at the top of the stairs.) When the first two deputies arrived, they discovered Drypen in the basement (The lower, fully finished walkout level) armed with a knife and in an agitated mental state, pacing and listening to extremely loud rap music. He ignored their attempts at conversation, so the deputies positioned themselves in the backyard, just outside two walkout sliding doors. (These first two deputies were calm and had everything under control. They told Chris that they had all day and they were willing to wait him out as long as it proved necessary. They were in the same room as Christopher and Christopher’s mother and a neighbor who is also a police officer and did not behave as if they felt threatened. After all, this was only a 16 year old kid with a small knife and no fight experience up against (eventually) five OCSD professionals supposedly highly trained in hand-to-hand combat, and other non-lethal disarming technique) Two other deputies stationed themselves inside the house, (These second two deputies, Wood and Terrell came prepared for battle in bulletproof vests, Kevlar gloves with guns drawn. Their demeanor upon arrival was edgy and aggressive as if they were dealing with an armed gunman with hostages rather than a 16 year old barefoot kid in shorts and a tee shirt who wanted to be left alone.) at the top of the basement (“basement” produces a misleading image of the location. This is a fully finished lower walk-out level of the house. It is brightly lit with an open architecture) staircase. The recorded conversations reveal that deputies had a two-fold purpose at the scene: First, to calm him (The audio tapes clearly show that Wood and Terrell were actively antagonizing Chris, not calming him. The actions of Wood and Terrell created the circumstances that directly resulted in Christopher’s death.) and have him put the knife down; and, secondly, to keep him secured in the basement so he could not escape and endanger others, including neighbors who had gathered outside. (There were no neighbors on the Drypen property. Any that were around were at least one house away. There was no way they would have been in any peril should Christopher have come outside, and there was NO indication Christopher was going anywhere except to his bedroom. He just wanted to be left alone) In the meantime, the deputies made repeated requests to command staff to summon a deputy trained in the use of newly supplied taser guns, or for the activation of the Special Response Team. At one point, Drypen became enraged at the deputies' attempts to converse with him when he came toward them with the knife raised. The deputies retreated through the sliding doors and struggled to keep the door closed while Drypen fought to attack them. During the struggle, the inside door handle broke off in Drypen's hand, after which he again continued to pace with the knife.
Later attempts to talk to Drypen were met by a barrage of obscenities, directed alternatively to deputies on the other side of the basement walkout doors, as well as to deputies at the top of the staircase. Drypen repeatedly sang along with the obscenity-laced rap lyrics, (This was music from the movie “Office Space”) which included quotes about killing sprees, killing police and police brutality. (The emphasis on obscenities is disingenuous. One if the killing officers directed equally obscene language at Christopher)
The audiotapes confirm that at 11:52 a.m. , sixty-nine minutes after the first deputies had arrived at the scene, Drypen, without provocation, (This is yet another HUGE lie. The officer’s microphones captured Terrell saying “if he comes up here, he’s dead” and then Wood beckoning Christopher to the stairs immediately prior to the shots being taken. There indeed WAS provocation) bolted up the steps toward the two deputies keeping guard. (All of the forensic evidence including bullet tracings and blood spatter analysis conclusively proves that Christopher was NOT in the stairs but rather was shot to death at the base of the steps.) At one time during the audiotape a deputy watching through the walkout sliding door is heard yelling, "He's going..."( this meant he was going towards the steps, not up them) after which gunshots are heard. As the shooting continues the deputy is heard completing his sentence "...up the steps!" (the sentence was completed AFTER the gunshots because Christopher had never even made it to the stairs). This tape supports the statements of both deputies who fired from the top of the steps. (It does not support this) Each stated that he fired to protect and defend himself and his partner from Drypen, who charged them with the knife raised. (There is NO physical evidence of any sort that supports this claim. It is equally as likely that the officers decided to take the matter into their own hands. The nature of the discussions on tape by Wood and Terrell indicate that the decision to shoot was premeditated and made well in advance. This was not a defensive reaction. The autopsy revealed that Drypen sustained 10 gunshot wounds and three grazing wounds. Crime Scene Investigators found that in total 18 shots
were fired. A review of the audiotapes reveals that all 18 shots were fired within a four-second-time span. (Wood fired 15 of the 18 shots … and then reloaded so he could fire more!)
Prosecutors also reviewed pertinent training regimens offered by the Oakland County Sheriff's Department regarding defense tactics for knife and edged weapon attacks, including the identical training previously
acquired by the two responding deputies. Those training regimens are consistent with national training standards. (according to testimony by expert police witnesses from outside the OCSD, the officers reactions were NOT appropriate) Relevant training topics include discussions on the following:
* Knife attacks on police officers have increased dramatically in recent years. (While troubling, this has no bearing on this case)
* Emotionally disturbed persons have killed more police officers with knives than any other category of attacker. (“emotionally disturbed” is one of those catch phrases that can be defined so broadly as to include virtually anyone who has had an encounter with law enforcement. This is a meaningless statement added purely in hope of drumming of sympathy for the police)
* Studies (which, by the way are not universally accepted) indicate that a distance of 21 feet is the established danger (the OCSD refer to this as the “kill” zone) zone of an attacker armed with a knife. A minimum of 21 feet is required between a charging (no physical evidence supports Christopher "charged") assailant armed with a knife and a police officer, in order to provide the officer time to defend himself. (The 21 feet presupposes that both parties are on a level, unobstructed surface. Christopher was at the base of a steep set of stairs with Wood and Terrell, in bulletproof vests and knife-proof gloves, positioned at the top. Countless alternatives to gunfire as simple as tossing a chair into the stairwell were available to the officers. They could also have retreated. They were not cornered, the whole upper floor was available to backtrack into and there was nobody else in the house. There were other officers outside the house so trying to keep Christopher in the house, even at the cost of his life, was a reprehensible decision.)
* Use of deadly force by police officers is justified whenever an assailant armed with a knife breaches the 21-foot safety zone. (This is not a conclusive fact. It depends upon the conditions. Again, the OCSD has called this the “kill zone” in newspaper articles). Measurements taken at the scene established a distance from the bottom step to the landing where the deputies were positioned as 12 feet 3 inches, well within the prescribed 21-foot danger zone. Accordingly, both deputies reacted and performed in a manner consistent with their training and standard defense tactics. (Subsequent forensic evidence places Christopher at the side of the stairs where he could not have been an immediate threat to the killing officers.)
These facts were applied against Michigan Law, which states a police officer's use of deadly force is justified when necessary to protect himself or others from death or serious injury. The facts clearly establish that the two deputies had no alternative (This is not true, there were MANY alternatives to killing Christopher) but to defend themselves by responding to Drypen's knife attack (There is absolutely NO evidence except for the words of the killers that support the contention Christopher was attacking) with deadly force. (The facts clearly DO NOT support this position. If Christopher was at the base of the stairs, he could not have been wielding deadly force.) As unfortunate as the shooting was, the deputy's actions were consistent with their training and justified under Michigan Law regarding the use of deadly force when acting in self-defense. (The “acting in self-defense” statement is not supported by the evidence, only the words of the killers)
Please contact Deborah L. Carley at 248- 858-0642 for more information.