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Officer justified in fatal shooting of West Olive man, prosecutor says

Mark Brooky • May 1, 2018 at 6:00 PM

WEST OLIVE — The Ottawa County prosecuting attorney says the Holland public safety officer who fired the shot that killed a 27-year-old West Olive man on April 22 will not face criminal charges.

“My conclusion is that Officer Joseph Slenk, who had been made aware of the desperate circumstances of the hostage, acted with legal justification,” Prosecutor Ronald Frantz said in a release Tuesday afternoon.

Matthew Hartman was the prime suspect who investigators believe shot two people in Muskegon at 7:23 a.m. April 22. He shot and killed Jordan Carey, a male acquaintance of his wife, Mary Hartman, and wounded a woman at a home on Merrill Avenue. The woman survived the shooting.

Mary Hartman was being held as a hostage when Matthew Hartman drove to Muskegon, where he shot Carey and the woman, and then drove back to their home in the West Olive Estates in Olive Township, Frantz said. At some point, Mary Hartman sent a text message to Ottawa County Central Dispatch that her husband intended “suicide by cop,” Frantz said.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies responding to calls from Mary Hartman were positioned near the home. Two Holland Department of Public Safety officers were sent to the location in an armored vehicle.

Matthew Hartman went in and out of the home a couple of times, and refused to comply with commands from the police.

At 8:49 a.m., he exited a side door of the home while holding a handgun to his wife's head. He did not respond to shouts and directives to drop the weapon, Frantz said.

At 9:01 a.m., when the armored vehicle pulled into position, Slenk fired one rifle shot from about 80 feet away. The bullet struck Matthew Hartman in the head and he dropped to the ground, allowing his wife to fall aside uninjured.

Matthew Hartman was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Frantz said that from the perspective of Slenk at the scene, Mary Hartman's life was in imminent danger, and that "Slenk acted within the law, which allows the use of deadly force to defend another who is facing a threat of deadly force."

The state police were assigned to investigate the officer-involved shooting. They recovered a 9-mm handgun from near Matthew Hartman's body. It was fully loaded with a live round in the chamber, Frantz said.

All responding officers and witnesses either filled out a report or were interviewed. Frantz said there were no body camera video recordings, dash camera recordings or surveillance videos of the shooting.

As is standard practice for the department, Slenk was placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation into the shooting could be completed by the state police. The Holland Police Department did not immediately respond to The Holland Sentinel about when Slenk will return from administrative leave.

Slenk has been with the Holland Department of Public Safety for more than 15 years and is currently the handler of K-9 Flynn. He has been a patrol officer, evidence technician, West Michigan Enforcement Team detective and a K-9 team member. He is also a department field training officer and was named Officer of the Year in 2015.

The Holland Sentinel contributed to this report.

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