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Victim in shooting suffered from mental disorder


Jonathan David Sper had been battling a mental disorder for about a decade. Photo from a NAMI page set up in his memory.

Jonathan David Sper had been battling a mental disorder for about a decade. Photo from a NAMI page set up in his memory.

By Judy Reed

The Kent County Sheriff Department and the family of Jonathan David Sper released a joint statement Thursday detailing some of the events that led to Jonathan’s death on Tuesday evening, January 24.

According to the statement, he had been diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder, and had been trying to rehabilitate himself for the last 10 years.

“We know that Jonathan is in a better place–a place where he no longer has to wrestle with mental illness,” said his family. “Even while dealing with this disorder, he was a great friend to many people. He was a dreamer, full of life, and had a fierce entrepreneurial spirit.”

Jonathan had been in jail for six days, on charges of ordering food and not paying for it, and not identifying himself to a police officer. Records at 61st District Court show his appearances before the judge were canceled several times due to being uncooperative. He finally was sentenced to the six days time served and released on Tuesday, January 24, just hours before the shooting.

Jonathan David Sper. Facebook photo from November 2016.

Jonathan David Sper. Facebook photo from November 2016.

Sper was reportedly dropped off in a manic state at his brother’s home in the 4000 block of Summit Ct, in Algoma Township, about 5 p.m. According to the statement, this is what happened next: “His brother did his best to confine Jonathan and to deescalate the situation with the intent of peacefully removing him from the property. After two hours, and a brief physical altercation, it was obvious that the brother needed assistance from law enforcement, at which point he called 911. The 911 operator was informed of Jonathan’s manic state. When the police arrived, the two brothers were already separated. The officers were again informed of Jonathan’s manic state from his brother. Jonathan was in the garage when the two officers arrived. Upon approaching Jonathan, the officers issued orders that were not followed. A struggle between the officers and Jonathan ensued which ended in Jonathan’s death.”

The Wyoming Police Department is investigating the shooting. It is standard procedure to call in another police department when an officer is involved in a shooting death. They have not released the name of the officer who fired the shots.

The Spers also asked for people to remember the officers involved. “In addition to the thoughts and prayers going out to our family, please keep in mind the officers who were involved in this tragic event. While serving our community and risking their lives every day, members of law enforcement must confront mental illness in its worst form. Although there are already tremendous efforts in this community to provide resources for the mentally ill, the Office of the Sheriff and the Sper family have a desire to advocate for continued improvement in how mentally ill people are handled by the criminal justice system and by community mental health providers so that this tragedy is not repeated. Through this advocacy, we hope to achieve a safer community for everyone, with a safety net for those living with mental illness, enabling them to live their lives in peace.”

The family will hold a memorial service at Ada Bible Church on Knapp St., Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, so they can continue to support hundreds of thousands of families, advocate for better resources and tools for mental health providers, and lead awareness activities and events to encourage understanding and prevent situations like this from occurring in the future. A memorial fundraiser has been created for Jonathan Sper and can be found on NAMI’s website http://ifundraise.nami.org/campaign/sper.

 

 

 

 

 

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Man dies in officer involved shooting


The Kent County Sheriff's mobile crime lab at the scene of the shooting in the 4000 block of Summit Ct. in Algoma Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

The Kent County Sheriff’s mobile crime lab at the scene of the shooting in the 4000 block of Summit Ct. in Algoma Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

UPDATED 1/29. Also see related story: Shooting victim suffered from mental disorder

By Judy Reed

A man died in Algoma Tuesday after he struggled with a police officer and was subsequently shot.

According to Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma, officers were called to a domestic dispute in the 4000 block of Summit Court, which is west off Summit near 14 Mile, about 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24. When deputies arrived, they learned that there had been an altercation between two brothers, who were now separated. One of them, who was suffering from a mental illness, got into an altercation with one of the deputies and injured him. Shots were then fired by a deputy, resulting in the death of the brother that was fighting the officer.

Sheriff Stelma said that the officer suffered minor injuries, including lacerations and bruises, but is fine.

Jonathan David Sper mugshot from Kent County Correctional Facility.

Jonathan David Sper mugshot from Kent County Correctional Facility.

The officer that fired the shot has not yet been identified.

The Wyoming Police Department is investigating the shooting, and identified the deceased brother as Jonathan David Sper, age 30. Sper had been released from jail just hours before the shooting. He had been arrested in Grand Rapids on January 18 for ordering food/beverage without paying, and for failing to identify himself to a police officer. 61st District Court records show he was uncooperative several times during his appearances before the judges, causing his hearings to be canceled, but he finally pled guilty on January 24, and was released, receiving credit for the six days served as his sentence.

Jonathan David Sper in happier times.

Jonathan David Sper in happier times.

Jonathan is the son of David and Mary Sper of Grand Rapids. The shooting happened at the home of his brother and sister-in-law, Jarred and Sara Sper.

According to his obituary, Jonathan graduated from Abilene Christian University in 2014. He was described as a dreamer, full of life, who loved people, and had an entrepreneurial spirit.

A memorial service will be held at Ada Bible Church on Knapp St., Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, family asked that donations be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://ifundraise.nami.org/campaign/sper.

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