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NMPD releases body cam footage from shooting

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER — Body camera footage released by the North Manchester Police Department on Friday answers some questions regarding last Tuesday’s fatal police shooting at the Eel River Inn.

The footage was captured by Sgt. Nathaniel Birch, the department’s K9 officer and one of three officers who witnessed the shooting.

NMPD Chief Jim Kirk says Birch was coming on duty when, around 6 p.m. on March 6, he pulled into the Eel River Inn parking lot to assist Officer Parker Stouffer, who had pulled over Michael Kline, 40, North Manchester, for minor traffic violations as part of Operation Pullover.

The two officers briefly discussed the citations before asking Kline and two passengers in the vehicle, a man and a woman, to exit the pickup truck. Birch is seen patting down the male passenger on the right hand side of the vehicle when Stouffer, who cannot be seen at this point in the video, begins shouting “he’s got a gun.” Several gunshots are heard immediately after.

Birch then pulls his own gun and points it in Kline’s direction, yelling “get on the ground” several times before turning toward the witnesses who had been riding with Kline before.

The woman can be heard asking if Kline is okay while Birch tells her to stay where she’s at. He and fellow NMPD Officer Isaac Adams proceed to handcuff the witnesses soon after the shooting stops.

Footage reviewed by the Plain Dealer does not show the exact moment when Kline exited the vehicle and reportedly drew a gun on officers, as Kirk described. Nevertheless, Kirk says several moments in the footage corroborate the department’s version of events.

The first is an image of Kline lying on the ground next to his truck, with a silver gun-like object lying a few feet away. Kirk says the object is a Jennings semi-automatic handgun used by Kline.

The second is an exchange the two witnesses had while waiting on paramedics to arrive, all caught by Birch’s body cam footage.

The man is heard asking, “Oh my god, what was he thinking?” to which the woman responds, “I don’t know. A second time, the man asks “What the f--- he had a gun for?” to which the woman replies again, “I don’t know.”

Indiana State Police are investigating the shooting but have not yet confirmed details provided by the North Manchester Police Department.

But State Police said on Thursday that officers reportedly found about 10 grams of meth, five grams of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia in Kline’s truck.

Stouffer has been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is over. He joined the NMPD in August 2016 as a patrol officer.

The Plain Dealer viewed Birch’s body camera footage on Friday after making a public record request to confirm the NMPD’s description of the shooting. Only footage from Birch’s body camera was released because Kirk said Stouffer’s body cam was covered by a jacket at the time of the incident.