By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The officers who shot and killed a fugitive outside the Motel 6 in Joplin on April 12 were acting in self-defense, in the opinion of the Jasper County prosecutor.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force went to the motel at 3031 S. Range Line Road looking for parole absconder Michael D. Findley, 45, of Springfield, and a shooting took place in the parking lot. Findley was killed.
The Joplin Police Department investigated the shooting and submitted reports to Prosecutor Dean Dankelson for review. Dankelson said this week that his office will not be filing charges against any of the officers involved.
“I thought the officers were justified under the law to take the action they did,” Dankelson said.
He said Findley had a gun, and task force members shot him in self-defense.
“I do not believe (Findley) fired any shots toward the officers, but he did have a handgun and was displaying it at the time,” Dankelson said.
Dankelson declined to provide further details regarding the shooting. The reports submitted by police have been passed on to the U.S. Marshals Service for review before completion of the investigation.
The task force members who went to the motel included federal marshals and Greene County sheriff’s deputies. Besides being a parole absconder and having an active warrant for stealing, Findley was being sought for questioning in the death of Desiree Haugen, 23, of Battlefield.
Haugen’s death has since been ruled a suicide, but it was still being investigated as an open case of homicide when Findley was shot at the motel.
An affidavit filed to obtain a search warrant in the case states that an anonymous caller informed Battlefield police on April 9 that someone named “Mitt” or “Mick” told the caller that he killed his girlfriend.
The caller provided an address of an apartment where police discovered Haugen deceased on the floor of her living room. There was a gunshot wound to her chin and a black handgun near her hand. She appeared to have been dead for more than 24 hours, according to the affidavit.
Police also discovered a spent shell casing and what appeared to be blood in the parking lot outside the apartment. A gun holster was found near the back door.
Another affidavit to search a cellphone containing text messages believed to have been sent by Findley turned up information that Findley and Haugen had returned to the apartment together. She remained in their vehicle while he went in to take a shower. Later, he went back out to the vehicle and discovered that she had shot herself.
Findley reportedly said in the text messages that he then moved her body inside the apartment.