DEXTER – According to records from Kentucky State Police, an off-duty Murray Police Department officer fatally shot an Almo man in 2019 near the officer’s home after the man allegedly charged at him while pulling a phone out of his pocket and presenting it “as if it were a weapon.”
The initial report from KSP Post 1 in Hickory said that on Nov. 2, 2019, Post 1 detectives and the KSP Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) investigated a fatal officer-involved shooting. KSP said a Calloway County sheriff’s deputy and an officer with MPD responded to Radio Road in the Dexter community regarding a suspicious person. Following an altercation with law enforcement, a male subject, later identified as John D. Hale, 42, of Almo, was fatally shot. Neither officer was injured during the altercation, KSP said.
On Nov. 7, 2019, KSP released the name of the officer involved, saying it had been Officer Justin Swope. A press release from MPD at the time said that Swope had been placed on paid administrative leave pending an administrative review. The press release also indicated that Swope was off duty at the time of the altercation that resulted in Hale’s death. Since that time, Swope became a detective for the department.
Post 1 Public Affairs Officer Trooper Adam Jones told the Ledger & Times in October 2020 that a CIRT investigator said Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Foust had presented the case to a Calloway County grand jury earlier that month and did not indict Swope on any charges.
“The case was presented to a grand jury and the grand jury came back with no true bill on that,” Jones said. “(The CIRT investigator) said the only thing left to do is to finalize the case, and after it is closed, open records can be released.”
In anticipation of the case’s official closure, the Ledger & Times submitted an open records request to KSP’s Frankfort headquarters earlier this month for all records related to the shooting investigation, and they were received in the past week.
According to one of the reports included in the records, Det. Michael Robichaud said he was contacted at 1:54 p.m. Nov. 2, 2019, by KSP Post 1 dispatch in reference to an officer-involved shooting on Radio Road in Calloway County.
“I responded to the scene and learned that Calloway County Deputy Danny Williams (of the Calloway County Sheriff’s Office) and Murray Police Officer Justin Swope had responded to a suspicious person in the front yard of Officer Swope’s residence,” Robichaud wrote in the report. “It was reported that the subject was standing in the front yard of Officer Swope’s residence, talking to himself and making loud noises. We were told that Officer Swope’s wife ... contacted Officer Swope and that is when he and Calloway County Deputy Williams responded to the residence.
“It was reported that the suspect had left the scene and was located by the units in a nearby field. We were told that the suspect was acting erratically and charged at Officer Swope before pulling a black phone out of a pocket and presenting it as if it were a weapon. That is when Officer Swope discharged his weapon and struck the suspect. The suspect would later be identified as John Hale.”
Robichaud wrote that at 2:58 p.m., he and KSP Det. Cory Hamby went to Swope’s residence in Dexter and photographed the exterior of the residence before they conducted a neighborhood canvas.
“No subjects in the area that I spoke with recalled observing the suspect in the front yard of the residence,” Robichaud wrote. “However, they also stated that they keep their blinds drawn and had not looked outside this date. After photographing the area and conducting the neighborhood canvas, Det. Hamby and I searched the wood line near the residence to see if we could determine the path that the suspect took to the field where the altercation occurred. The wood line was very thick and it was unclear at this time what path the suspect took when he left the initial scene.”
Robichaud said he and Hamby returned around 3:20 p.m. to the location of the shooting, and he photographed the scene, including the body, the surrounding area and the deputy’s vehicle. He said he also later photographed the body as it was removed from the scene and the shell casings that where located nearby. After the scene was scanned with a 3D scanner, Robichaud said a detailed search of the scene was conducted for the shell casings from Swope’s firearm. Metal detectors were used and all five of the shells fired from Swope’s firearm were located, he said.
A copy of the photographs were given to the case officer, Lt. Trey Green with CIRT. Following a Nov. 7, 2019, evidence inventory of the collected evidence from the scene, it was discovered that only four shell casings were located in the collected evidence, Robichaud said.
“Det. Brian Hill and I returned to the scene (at 3:15 p.m. Nov. 7) and were able to relocate the missing 5th casing with ease,” Robichaud wrote. “The casing was in the same position and location that it was found in from the night of the shooting. The casing was photographed to show that it was in the same location and position. After photographing the item it was collected.”
Sgt. Chris Rafferty said in his report that he received a phone call at approximately 3 p.m. Nov. 2 from Lt. Hunter Martin, who advised him that an off-duty MPD officer was involved in a shooting near his residence in Calloway County. He said he arrived at approximately 5:13 p.m.
“I arrived at the scene and made contact with Lt. Trey Green (CIRT) and Det. Matt Wise (CIRT),” Rafferty wrote. “We conducted a walk-through of the scene, which was located in the middle of a large cut cornfield. I observed an adult male (Caucasian) lying on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back. He was wearing blue jeans and a tan jacket.”
Rafferty said he utilized a 3D scanner to conduct a total of three scans of the scene. He said he established reference points using mag nails and spray paint. After completing the scans, he said he was unable to utilize another piece of equipment to photograph the scene from an aerial perspective due to darkness. He said he left at 8:53 p.m., but returned the next morning at 9:24 to take more aerial photos during the daylight.
An autopsy of Hale was conducted at the Western Kentucky Regional Medical Examiner’s office in Madisonville. The final diagnoses, signed Dec. 20, 2019, concluded that he died of multiple gunshot wounds to the neck.
The postmortem toxicology report showed Hale’s femoral blood contained 158 ng/mL of methamphetamine, 1.0 ng/mL of THC, 8.6 ng/mL of THC-CCOH, 8.6 ng/mL and 0.227% weight by volume of ethanol. His urine also tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine and codeine, the report said. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the intoxicating chemical in marijuana, and THC-CCOH is the main secondary metabolite of THC, which is formed in the body after cannabis is consumed. Ethanol is the intoxicating ingredient in alcohol.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the initial test cutoff concentration for federally regulated workplace drug testing is 50 ng/mL for marijuana metabolites and 500 ng/mL for amphetamines. That means that if an employee had at least those amounts in their system, they would likely be called in for a second, confirmatory test with a lower cutoff limit, but if they had less than that in their system, they likely would not be. The confirmatory test cut off concentration for methamphetamine is 250 ng/mL, the NCBI website says.
MPD Chief Jeff Liles responded to a request for comment from the Ledger & Times on Thursday afternoon.
“It is not appropriate at this time for me to comment due to pending litigation,” he said in the phone call.