Deadly Shooting By Royal Oak Cop In White Castle Drive-thru Ruled Justified

August 01, 2018 - 12:01 pm

ROYAL OAK (WWJ) - A Royal Oak police officer has been cleared in the April shooting death of a man during a traffic stop.  

Police say the incident began when officers attempted to stop a car "driving erratically" along Woodward near 13 Mile Road the evening of April 10.

The driver -- later identified as 20-year-old Antonio Gordon -- sped off, but was recognized by police in White Castle drive-thru a short time later. 

Officer Keith Bierenga blocked Gordon's vehicle with his patrol car, police said, but Gordon rammed it and the car behind him to escape, nearly hitting Bierenga in the process. That's when Beirenga fired his service weapon, striking Gordon in the chest.

Following the shooting, police said Gordon had numerous contacts with law enforcement including multiple arrests for operating while intoxicating and disorderly conduct, and had a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the shooting. 

An autopsy found the cause of death was one gunshot wound to the chest and two to the arms; also concluding that Bierenga's BAC was approximately three times the legal limit for driving at the time of the incident.

Following an investigation by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, Genessee County Prosecutor David Leyton has found that the shooting was justified.

In a media release, Leyton said there were several reasons. First and foremost, Prosecutor Leyton refers to Michigan's "Self Defense Act," MCL 780.972, which states an individual may use deadly force against another when they honestly and reasonably believe the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual. 

Additionally, Leyton said, state law allows deadly force to be used in making an arrest when the arresting person is met with force or when deadly force is required to prevent the person being arrested from fleeing. 

"There is no question that this was a very tragic incident for all involved," Leyton said. "What started out as a routine traffic stop quickly escalated into a dangerous felony situation in which Mr. Gordon's own actions on the road and at the White Castle parking lot put countless lives at risk, including the life of Officer Bierenga."

"My staff and I came to our conclusion based on the facts and the law."

An attorney for Gordon's family has said the officer clearly had "an intent to kill," and cited witness statements claiming the shooting appeared to be unnecessary. 

Also not convinced is Gordon's brother, Alex Gordon, who said the family is in mourning.

"It's been horrible; it's the worst thing you could ever imagine -- especially (for) me. I have to pass by the place every single day," he told WWJ's Sandra McNeill. "He shot him while he was driving away. Anybody who's in their right mind who is not a police officer shoots somebody in the back goes to jail for the rest of their lives."

Alex Gordon said he's concerned that police will not give him a straight answer as to when Bierenga will be back on the streets. The officer was placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.