It’s been more than 10 years since Michael Bell Jr., 21, was shot and killed by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and his father says he wants answers.
A full-page ad taken out Tuesday in The Washington Post by Bell’s father, Michael Bell, calls on authorities to reopen their investigation into the 2004 shooting, CBS News reported. It cost him almost $65,000.
Police said Bell Jr. was drunk and uncooperative when officers pulled him over in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2004, the news station reported. A scuffle ensued, during which police say Bell Jr. was shot with a stun gun and still fought back against police. At some point, Officer Erich Strausbaugh said in the police report that he could feel Bell Jr.’s hand on his holster as he attempted to pull the gun up as Strausbaugh tried to push it back down. Strausbaugh called out, “he has my gun,” Then he heard a gunshot, the report said.
Another officer had intervened and shot Bell Jr. in the head, CBS News reported.
Strausbaugh wrote that he saw a lot of blood and Bell Jr. “laying on the hood of the car,” according to the report.
The officers who killed Bell Jr. were cleared of wrongdoing after an investigation within the department, the Journal-Sentinel reported. The investigation took less than a week, NPR reported. City officials have denied a coverup in the case.
Strausbaugh took his own life in 2010, CBS News reported.
In 2010, Bell decided to launch his own investigation, NPR reported, hiring an investigative consultant and Russell Beckman, a retired Kenosha police detective. Bell said Beckman uncovered a crucial detail from the encounter: The tugging that Strausbaugh thought was Bell Jr. reaching for his gun may have actually been a broken car mirror that got caught in Strausbaugh’s belt during the struggle, CBS News reported.
But it seems unlikely that this theory will change the outcome of the original investigation.
Michael Graveley, the Kenosha County district attorney, tells CBS News the chances of bringing charges against the officers who were involved has passed.
"I think the simplest explanation here is that officers were candid at the beginning of this process.” Graveley said.
Regardless of whether further action will be taken, Michael Bell’s efforts have not gone to waste. After his son’s shooting, he became a police reform activist, and his activism led to a law that requires an outside investigation when people die in police custody, the Journal-Sentinel reported. In 2014, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to pass such a law, NPR reported.
Kenosha police officials haven’t responded to a request seeking comment on Bell’s ad.