Evidence insufficient to bring charges in fatal shooting

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 17, 2021

 Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Peter Lucido said there was insufficient evidence to authorize charges after a shooting near State Park and Landau Street in Center Line on Aug. 8 that left a 29-year-old man dead.

Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Peter Lucido said there was insufficient evidence to authorize charges after a shooting near State Park and Landau Street in Center Line on Aug. 8 that left a 29-year-old man dead.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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CENTER LINE — Citing a lack of sufficient evidence at this time to show that a crime was committed, Macomb County prosecutors have declined to authorize charges after a shooting in Center Line left a 29-year-old man dead on Aug. 8.

Center Line Public Safety officers were sent to a home on State Park near Landau Street, west of Van Dyke Avenue, at about 1:15 a.m. that morning where they found a man dead at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds. A Roseville man was taken into custody and a weapon was located, police said previously in a release, but the man was released from custody pending a request by prosecutors for further investigation.

On Sept. 14, Detective Danny Petroff with the Center Line Public Safety Department, the officer in charge of the investigation, said it had since been determined by prosecutors that there wasn’t enough evidence currently to move forward with a criminal prosecution.

“There’s insufficient evidence right now. They didn’t deny it. They didn’t deny the warrant. Right now, there’s just insufficient evidence to further a complaint,” Petroff said. “If something comes up, through additional investigation, we can still present evidence to the prosecutor.”

Petroff said inconsistent statements from witnesses and a lack of video evidence left a less than clear picture of what led up to the shooting.   

“It appears it was a self-defense type situation. The individuals involved were all together that evening. They didn’t know each other, other than through a mutual friend,” Petroff said.

The victim, identified by family members in a GoFundMe appeal as Raymond Leonard Harbert Jr., of Clinton Township, a father of three children, was reportedly shot four times with a .40-caliber handgun owned by the shooter, who police said was licensed to carry a concealed pistol.

“The victim in this case, he was really aggressive toward the shooter all night,” Petroff said. “They had words. There was a verbal exchange.”

The shooter was reportedly leaving the scene with his wife when the shooting occurred.

Petroff said Harbert also had a gun in his possession when he was shot, but that it didn’t belong to him. It belonged to a mutual friend of Harbert and the shooter. That mutual friend reportedly dropped the gun during a separate altercation with Harbert.

After the mutual friend dropped the pistol, Harbert’s girlfriend picked it up. Harbert reportedly then took the weapon from her and approached the shooter, who was walking away. At the same time, the mutual friend who dropped the gun was trying to get it back from Harbert.

Petroff said Harbert was carrying the weapon when he approached the shooter and words were exchanged. That’s when the shooter opened fire.

He said the shooting was not deemed justified, but that accounts detailing what happened in those final seconds before the shots were fired left the findings of the investigation less than clear.  

“It’s just a perfect storm,” Petroff said of the events leading up to the shooting.

Harbert was reportedly shot twice in the back and once in the buttocks. He was also grazed under his bicep. One of the five total shots missed.

The weapon Harbert was carrying was a 9mm pistol legally registered to the mutual friend of the men. Different witness accounts reportedly had Harbert holding the gun, pointing it or pulling it from his waistband.

“With the witness statements and what they witnessed and what transpired that evening, and what the victim was doing, he had the weapon out,” Petroff said “We don’t know how far the victim went in his actions to point the gun or wield it or anything of that nature. We just know for a fact the gun was out and he had it in his hand.”

Police said Harbert’s family was briefed on the status of the investigation thus far.

“Obviously, they’re very upset. He was shot in the back,” Petroff said. “Everyone was like, he was shot in the back, it’s obviously murder. Well, he had a gun. He had a gun that didn’t belong to him. He wasn’t a legal CPL holder. I’m not saying because of all those facts he deserved to die. What his actions were leading up to the shooting were unclear.”

Petroff said a total of about five minutes elapsed between the time the shooter left the property with his wife and the shooting.

“We’re missing information that would give us all the elements of a crime, any crime,” Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Peter Lucido said on Sept. 14. “As a prosecutor, you swear to uphold your oath of office, that you will uphold the law, and that you will be fair in regards to charging individuals.”

Lucido said the law permits the use of deadly force if the threat of deadly force is present.

“No one likes to see a death go unpunished,” Lucido said. “But if you don’t have the elements of the crime present, how are you supposed to convict?”

He said the case is closed unless new evidence is discovered and presented to prosecutors for further evaluation.

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