UPDATE: Officers Justified in Bennett Shooting Death

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UPDATE: ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Today the Winnebago County Integrity Task Force ruled that the four Rockford Police Officers were justified in fatally shooting a man who charged at them with a knife on November 1st.

“It seems that everyone that is around Demetrius Bennet, is a family member of Demetrius Bennet, he was going to injure you,” said Special Prosecutor David Neal.

It all started when Demetrius Bennet’s wife showed up to the Rockford Police Department bloodied and bruised. She said he had been beating her for three straight days. When Rockford Police showed up to the home, they say Bennet took his 17 month old child into the kitchen and grabbed a steak knife.

“He indicated to officers he was a man who would fight.”

After giving up his son, investigators say Bennett still wouldn’t back down and fought off being pepper sprayed. Investigators say he then lunged at the officers who were standing about 15 feet away.

“Police officers said stop, drop your knife, stop.”

“They had nowhere to retreat to when he started coming at him with a knife,” said Master Sgt. Todd Shafer.

That’s when four officers shot and killed Bennett. The Integrity Task Force says the shooting was justified because of the officers’ commands and the fact they were so close to him. Bennett’s family tells us they’re unhappy with the ruling and still believe officers should not have shot their guns.

The four officers involved have been on administrative leave since the shooting. They’ll be back in uniform on Sunday.

This isn’t the first time this year the Integrity Task Force has made a ruling. In January it ruled the three officers involved in Logan Bell’s death were also justified.

UPDATE: ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County State's Attorney's office will no longer be handling the latest officer-involved shooting. That's because Marilyn Hite-Ross, the deputy state's attorney of the criminal division, is the victim's second cousin and the agency doesn't want there to be a conflict of interest.

The State's Attorney said Hite-Ross didn't realize she was related to Bennett until her family told her about the relationship on Sunday. She had never met Bennett, but because she oversees all criminal cases, the office has decided to turn the case over to the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor.

"In many cases the potential Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office step aside," said Winnebago County State’s Attorney, Joe Bruscato.
The Illinois Appellate Prosecutor often takes over cases because of conflicts of interest. This is the first time the State's Attorney's office has been conflicted out of an officer-involved shooting case since Joe Bruscato was first elected.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- On November 1st Rockford police responded to a domestic violence incident that ended with police officers shooting and killing 31-year-old Demetrius Bennett, who they say came at them with a knife. Now, his family is now demanding answers for what happened after he was killed.

“According to the information that I’ve received, the individual took one of the young children that was there and used him as a human shield, while he brandished a knife to officers," said Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson.

Fast forward 24 hours and state police tell a different version of the story.

"After multiple failed attempts to get Mr. Bennett to release his 17-month old child, the mother of the child entered the residence, approached Mr. Bennett, and Mr. Bennett did hand the child over to his mother unharmed," said Kurt Cavanaugh with the State Police.
The Winnebago County Integrity Task Force now says 31-year-old Demetrius Bennett didn't grab a steak knife from the kitchen until after his kids were out of the house.

"They said my son was using my grandson as a human shield, that's not true," said Ivory Bennett, Demetrius’ mother.

Now his family is demanding answers, hinting they think there was a cover up.

"With all due respect to Chief Epperson, before ever making any statements to the public I think it's important that you establish the facts first," said Giles Jefferson, a family friend.

The task force says Bennett charged them after being sprayed with pepper spray. All four officers shot at him.

"When young men are being shot on the west side of town by the Rockford Police Department, and the stories that he first put out when these things happened, are not correct, are not true, we want the truth,” said Melvin Brown, the Family’s pastor.

Police have not said why the facts changed. At the press conference Rockford Police merely said initial reports from the scene indicated that a child was being used as a human shield. We don't know who told the Police Chief that information.