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Tag Archive | "Kent County Sheriff"

Rep. Huizenga welcomes Kent County Sheriff to governor’s address

Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young joined Rep. Mark Huizenga in Lansing for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State Address. Huizenga represents parts of Kent County, which includes the cities of Cedar Springs, Grandville, Rockford, and Walker and the villages of Kent City and Sparta.

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Man found dead in friend’s driveway

Police seeking information

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of a deceased person found outside of a home in Alpine Township, on Sunday, January 20, about 8:30 a.m. 

According to police, the investigation revealed that Gregory Gietzen, 57, of Grand Rapids had plans to visit a friend in Comstock Park last Saturday night but never arrived. On Sunday morning, Mr. Gietzen was found deceased in the driveway outside of the friend’s Comstock Park home. Mr. Gietzen’s death is currently under investigation and pending results of an autopsy.

Gietzen was last seen Saturday night around 8:30 p.m. at a restaurant near West River Drive and 4 Mile Road in Comstock Park. Investigators believe Gietzen was given a ride from the restaurant to an address on Bekinshire Dr NW, about 2 miles away, sometime after 8:30 p.m. Anyone who had any contact with Mr. Gietzen after 8:30 p.m. Saturday evening is asked to contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Investigative Division at 616-632-6125.

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Boy critically hurt during drop off at school

An eight-year-old boy is in critical condition after he was run over by his mother’s car while being dropped off at Chandler Woods Charter Academy in Plainfield Township Tuesday. The school is located at 6895 Samrick Ave NE.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, they received the call about 8:25 a.m. that a student had been struck by a vehicle and sustained potentially serious injuries. Deputies discovered that the student was an 8-year-old third grader and the driver of the vehicle was his mother.

Police said that surveillance footage showed the boy hanging from the passenger side front door handle just prior to losing his grip and being run over by the passenger side rear tire of the vehicle.

He was transported to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, where he remains in critical condition, after suffering trauma to his head and torso. 

Police are still investigating, and when complete, the case will be reviewed by the Prosecutor’s office for any possible criminal charges. No other info about the incident will be released until that time.

Plainfield Township Fire and Rockford Ambulance assisted at the scene.

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Undersheriff Michelle Young appointed Kent County Sheriff


Kent County announced last week that Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young has been appointed Sheriff.

First female sheriff for the County

There’s going to be a new sheriff in town. 

Kent County announced last week that Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young has been appointed Sheriff to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Larry Stelma who retires on Nov. 1, 2018.

Two individuals applied for the position: Undersheriff LaJoye-Young and Lt. Marc Burns. Kent County Chief Probate Judge David M. Murkowski chaired the statutorily mandated selection appointment committee and served along with Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker and Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus-Lyons. The committee’s decision was unanimous.

“The committee appreciates both candidates interest in the position and their commitment to law enforcement,” said Judge Murkowski. “Lt. Burns has served the Kent County Sheriff’s Department well and has an impressive resume,” Murkowski concluded.

“However, today it is an honor for the committee to appoint Undersheriff LaJoye-Young to the position of Kent County Sheriff. She possesses an unparalleled knowledge of the operation and procedures of the Sheriff’s Department, having worked in every division and served in every rank in the Department. Furthermore, the Undersheriff enjoys wide-based community support and commands the respect of every law enforcement agency across the state of Michigan and beyond. She has demonstrated throughout her career a great capacity and ability to lead and possesses an unwavering enthusiasm for the administration of justice. The fact Michelle LaJoye-Young will serve as the first female Sheriff for Kent County serves as the perfect exclamation point to a truly momentous day,” stated Murkowski.

LaJoye hired in as a corrections officer in December 1989; was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the records bureau in July 1994; promoted to Lieutenant in November 1999; promoted to Captain in January 2007; promoted to Chief Deputy in January 2011; and was promoted to Undersheriff in June 2015. 

She also went to school while working for the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. She attended the Grand Rapids Community College Police Academy; received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University. She graduated from Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command in 2012.

Kent County Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young’s appointment to Sheriff will be effective Nov. 1, 2018.

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Sheriff Larry Stelma announces retirement

Kent County Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma (right) was chosen as the first ever recipient of the Terrence L. Jungel Sheriff of the Year Award in 2017 by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. Terrence Jungel is on the left.


Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma announced last week that he will retire from his position on November 1, 2018.

“For 46 years I have had the privilege of serving this community, and I consider this privilege a gift from God,” Sheriff Stelma said as he notified the Kent County Board of Commissioners of his intent to retire November 1, 2018. While the decision to retire was difficult, the Sheriff emphasized that he is “confident that the next generation of leadership will serve this community well and bring this organization to new heights.”

Stelma began his career at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office on January 3, 1972, as a deputy working various duties in the jail and eventually transferring to the road patrol. As a detective in the investigative bureau, he was awarded the Sheriff’s Office Combat Star for his efforts to save his partner when a domestic violence suspect shot that officer in the chest in 1980. In August 1981, Stelma was promoted to sergeant on the road patrol; in 1985, he was promoted to road patrol lieutenant; and promoted to road patrol captain in January 1997. In January 1999, Stelma was appointed to serve as Kent County’s Undersheriff. On January 1, 2001, he was elected by the citizens of Kent County to serve as their Sheriff. He has since been re-elected Kent County Sheriff for five consecutive terms.

In 2017 he was named “Sheriff of the Year” by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. Sheriff Stelma’s investment in his staff, and his strong belief in mentorship have been key elements that have developed the Kent County Sheriff’s Office into one of the most innovative and strategic departments in the country.

“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to work for a leader whose fundamental goal is to guide and develop his staff through mentorship. His approach to mentorship and his unwavering leadership are directly tied to the culture we are so proud of at the KCSO,” Undersheriff LaJoyeYoung said. “We will miss him dearly and we wish him all the best on his next adventure.”

In a recent staff meeting, the Sheriff was asked what he plans to do in retirement. “A whole lot more hunting and fishing,” he responded, with his famous half smile and a nod. Sheriff Stelma has submitted his intent to retire to the County Clerk, and the legislated process to appoint a replacement will be occurring once the statutorily required appointing authority has been assembled.

Stelma is a longtime Cedar Springs resident and has given back to his community in a number of ways. 

Two particular initiatives that have affected Cedar Springs include the City and Sheriff Department partnership on police services, and the school resource officer at Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Stelma was integral in the creation of the partnership between the City and the Sheriff Department in 2015, the first time anything like that had been done in Kent County. The Cedar Springs Police Department was dissolved, and the full-time officers were offered jobs at the Kent County Sheriff Department, and a chance to serve in Cedar Springs. Sgt. Jason Kelley oversaw the Cedar Springs Unit until earlier this year, until Sgt. Todd Probst took over. The unit works out of the former police area at City Hall.

Cedar Springs was not the first public school to employ a Kent County Sheriff Deputy as a school resource officer, but the Sheriff Department did partner with the district to help fund the program. SROs work to improve school safety by investigating school-related incidents and take a proactive approach to improve the security of the campus, staff, and students.

Thank you, Sheriff Stelma, for your service, and the Post wishes you a happy retirement!

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Sheriff’s Office receives national traffic safety recognition

Alicia Sledge (left) and Julie Roth of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning present a national traffic safety award to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of OHSP.

Alicia Sledge (left) and Julie Roth of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning present a national traffic safety award to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of OHSP.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office Secondary Road Patrol (SRP)/Traffic Safety Unit has received the Salute to Law Enforcement Officers Award from the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders (NAWHSL).

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) presented the honor during a ceremony on Thursday, May 18, on behalf of the association.

“The award recognizes Kent County’s continued strong commitment and dedication to traffic safety,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director.
The Secondary Road Patrol and Traffic Accident Prevention Program provides county sheriff’s offices with funding to patrol county and local roads outside the corporate limits of cities and villages.  The state grant program, managed by the OHSP, has the legislated primary responsibility of traffic enforcement and traffic crash prevention on secondary roads.

Deputies funded under the SRP program are responsible for traffic enforcement, traffic crash prevention and investigation, criminal law enforcement and emergency assistance to stranded motorists on secondary roadways.

In 2016, the Kent County SRP Traffic Safety Unit investigated 35 fatal traffic crashes, including alcohol- related crashes.

“Traffic safety remains a top priority in Kent County.  We are always seeking innovative ways to address this ongoing problem,” said Kent County Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma.

The department has focused on drugged driving enforcement through its three Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) deputies.  A DRE is a law enforcement officer trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.

Stelma said deputies in the Traffic Safety Unit also have the equipment and training to precisely measure and map crash scenes.  This data is a vital investigative tool for criminal prosecution.

The unit has also established an online school bus red light violating reporting system that is used by bus drivers.  Reports are investigated by a deputy with proper enforcement action taken.

“We are grateful to receive this national honor and appreciate the ongoing support of the OHSP,” said Stelma.

The NAWHSL disseminates information and educational programs to promote safe traffic behavior and advocates for effective public programs to reduce motor vehicle related crashes, crash severity and the resulting deaths and injuries.

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Kent County Sheriff awards


The Kent County Sheriff Department is pleased to announce that the following employees have been selected as the 2016 Deputies of the Year and Civilian Employee of the Year:

Jennifer Robinson, Emergency Communications Supervisor 1, selected as 2016 Civilian Employee of the Year

Deputy Paul Rodriguez, selected as 2016 Deputy of the Year-Corrections

Deputy Andrew Kozal, selected as 2016 Deputy of the Year -Law Enforcement

John Shumay, selected as the 2016 Traffic Squad Special Deputy of the Year

These individuals were honored during the Kent County Sheriff Department Annual Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Jennifer Robinson

Jennifer Robinson

Jennifer Robinson, ECS 1, 2016 Civilian employee of the year

Jennifer began her career at the Kent County Sheriff Department on June 10, 2010 as an Emergency Communications Operator 1 in the Communications Center. Her duties included receiving emergency calls, dispatching proper equipment or personnel, typing call notes, and maintaining two-way radio communication for first responders. On September 30, 2013, she was promoted to Emergency Communications Supervisor 1, providing work direction for operators responsible for dispatching emergency calls.

Jennifer wears many hats and, with the addition of Wyoming Public Safety, her role has become more complex. She not only supervises “C” squad, she also manages the Communication Training Officer (CTO) program and oversees the Dispatch Academy.

Paul Rodriguez

Paul Rodriguez

Deputy Paul Rodriguez, 2016 Deputy of the year-Corrections

Paul began his career at the Kent County Sheriff Department on February 14, 2000 as a Corrections Officer, responsible for the general supervision and custody of inmates, conducting inmate searches, transfers, and investigations regarding alleged incidents within the facility.

Paul is assigned to night shift as a C-Letter, assigned as D/B rover. He is willing and capable to work any position within the jail and does so without complaint.

Deputy Rodriguez possesses great communications skills. Not only when relating with his co-workers but a necessity when diffusing situations with inmates. Deputy Rodriguez is knowledgeable in tactics to manage the jail population. He assists his partners with policy and best practices while managing the inmate population. He provides less experienced staff with veteran leadership when handling adverse situations within the jail.

Andrew Kozal

Andrew Kozal

Deputy Andrew Kozal, 2016 Deputy of the year-law enforcement

Andy began his career at the Kent County Sheriff Department as an Emergency

Communications Operator on March 11, 2002. He was transferred to a County Patrol Officer on September 22, 2003. Since 2007, he has been assigned as School Resource Officer (SRO) at Northview High School. As an SRO, Andy trained 400 staff members at Northview Public Schools in active shooter response, including teaching Civilian Response to Active Shooter (CRASE). In Fall 2016, Andy brought CRASE training to a Church Safety Summit, teaching 150 church staff members.

Andy builds relationships with students by simply being present and interacting with them. He gives short safety programs teaching Halloween, bike, and gun safety. During Public Safety Day, Andy invites police and firefighters to serve lunch to over 300 students. For students struggling with behavior issues, he works with teachers, counselors, and parents to mentor the student and reinforce good behaviors. If the student meets their goals, they are awarded by being a “junior deputy” for the day. In the 7th-8th grades, Andy uses the

Teaching, Educations, and Mentoring (T.E.A.M) program, teaching good citizenship, laws, leadership, and police work, using current events for that day’s lesson.

Andy works with Plainfield Fire and Mercy Health Systems to develop and complete a fatal car crash presentation for the junior class, including multiple “victims,” crashed vehicles, emergency responders, extractions, an emergency room scene, and courtroom re-enactment. The presentation takes the students through an emotional roller coaster and has an immense impact, bringing home the realization of the dangers of distracted driving.

In order to provide the school district the greatest value, a School Resource Officer must build a trusting relationship, assess their needs, and develop pertinent school programs. Andy exemplifies this ability in his work as the Northview’s School Resource Officer.

John Shumay

John Shumay

Deputy John Shumay, 2016 Traffic Squad Special Deputy of the Year

John Shumay joined the Kent County Sheriff Department’s Traffic Squad in August of 2009. He completed and graduated from the Traffic Squad Reserve Officer Academy in May of 2010. Although John has been involved in several varying aspects of The Squad, he has been particularly passionate about training and the reserve academy. In 2014 he was appointed Training Lieutenant and Senior Lieutenant in 2015, becoming part of The Squad’s administrative team. In that position, he has been tasked with managing and coordinating the academy for the past three years.

Managing the academy is no small task as it requires an annual review and update of the classes and curriculum, which is done in conjunction with the Department’s Training Unit. Once that process is completed, John is responsible for coordinating and scheduling the classes, the instructors, and then conducting the four-plus hour classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings from the first of December through mid-May of the following year. This constitutes a significant commitment of both time and energy.

In addition to his commitment to the academy, John coordinates the annual continuing education and training for those who are in the Enforcement Unit. He also maintains an active involvement in the Enforcement Unit and the administrative team.

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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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Suspect wanted for felonious assault


Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to a felonious assault complaint at 8:56 p.m. December 6, in the Riverview Trailer Park, off Long Lake Drive, in Sparta Township.

According to police, their preliminary investigation found that two male subjects got into a verbal altercation that escalated into a physical altercation. During the physical altercation, a 23-year-old Sparta Township man was stabbed an unknown amount of times by a 25-year-old Sparta Township man. The victim was transported to Spectrum Hospital via ambulance.

The suspect fled the scene in a vehicle.

The incident is still under investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau. If anyone has any information please call The Kent County Sheriff’s Office at (616) 336-3113 or Silent Observer.

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Deputy’s car hit by impaired driver


A Kent County Sheriff Deputy was investigating a hit and run in Oakfield Township when his car was struck by another vehicle on Sunday, November 20.

The deputy, who was not named, was investigating a hit and run on Podunk, south of 14 Mile about 3:54 a.m. He was seated in his patrol car, a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, when a 2005 Buick Lacrosse headed southbound ran the stop sign and struck the deputy’s vehicle.

The was transported to Spectrum Butterworth by Rockford Ambulance with non-life threatening injuries and released a short time later.

The driver of the Lacrosse, a 20-year-old Belding man, was also transported by Rockford Ambulance to Butterworth with non-life threatening injuries.

Alcohol and speed are believed to be factors in the crash.

The crash is under investigation by the Michigan State Police.

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Ray Winnie
Intandem Credit Union


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