Two years ago, David Ingle stood on the porch of a house in the 2500 block of South New Hampshire Avenue in Joplin, shouting out to all the world that he had a gun.
Everybody needed a gun because of the police, he shouted. If the police pulled him over, they would kill him, he yelled to anyone who cared to listen.
A resident of the block who heard Ingle’s rant became concerned and called police.
The caller told the officer who responded that he did not know Ingle personally but had seen him visiting the occupant of the house down the street on prior occasions. Ingle appeared to the caller to be under the influence of something this particular time, Officer Jake Vinoverski wrote in his report of the incident.
The witness told Vinoverski that he never actually saw a gun or weapon of any kind in Ingle’s possession while Ingle was ranting on the porch, and nothing ultimately came of the incident, according to the officer’s report.
Except, perhaps this: A detective, who later reviewed Vinoverski’s report, placed an alert on Ingle’s name in the Joplin police database regarding “possible carrying of a firearm.”
The July 2017 incident gained considerable poignancy in retrospect on Aug. 13 of this year when Joplin police Officer Christopher Grant Meador fatally shot Ingle in the 900 block of West Kensington Road during a struggle with Meador and Officer Laken Rawlins.
The two officers were responding to a report of a man running around and yelling, possibly high on drugs.
The death of the combative but unarmed 31-year-old man — whom friends describe as a diagnosed schizophrenic prone to episodes of paranoia and delusions — remains under investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the internal affairs bureau of the Joplin Police Department.
Both officers were placed on administrative leave in the immediate aftermath of the shooting but recently were allowed to return to active duty. Police Chief Matt Stewart told the Globe this past week that it could be a couple of months before findings of the patrol’s investigation are made public.
Reports of other police incidents involving Ingle — obtained by the Globe through a public records request — show the department had been made aware of Ingle’s mental illness prior to the officer-involved shooting and that Meador himself handled an incident in December 2017 that entailed odd behavior on the part of Ingle and culminated in his arrest on a vehicle tampering charge.
Chief Stewart has acknowledged in response to questions posed by the Globe regarding the officer-involved shooting that Ingle “has a history with our agency.”
Stewart said his department has the ability to “flag” residents known to have a mental illness in the department’s database to assist patrol officers, detectives and other department personnel in their contacts with those residents. In this case, however, the officers lacked advance knowledge that Ingle was the subject of the call, according to the police chief.
“It is important to note that the address that we were dispatched to was 901 W. Kensington Road, which is not Mr. Ingle’s address,” Stewart said. “The officers who responded did not know at any point during the incident that they were dealing with Mr. Ingle.”
He said neither officer knew the identity of the “suspicious man” reported to be “running around and yelling,” and neither recognized him prior to the shots being fired.
“They did not know who he was until after they had already cleared from the scene and we advised them of his identity,” Stewart said.
He said the alert placed on Ingle’s name following the December 2017 incident also did not come into play the night of the shooting because it was not known by either the dispatch center or the responding officers that the subject of the call was Ingle.
According to police, the first officer on the scene, Rawlins, spotted Ingle running down the street and watched him fall to the ground screaming. As Meador arrived, the decision was made to detain Ingle because of his erratic behavior. When Ingle resisted efforts to detain him, both officers deployed their stun guns, with probes from the guns striking the combative man multiple times, according to the lone account provided by police to date.
That account maintains that Ingle continued to resist, and Rawlins was rendered temporarily unable to assist Meador when a probe from one of the two officers’ stun guns struck her in the hand. The police account states that Meador, who was still engaged with Ingle, attempted to put some distance between himself and the combative man at that point. But Ingle charged at him, and Meador, a five-year veteran of the Joplin police force, fired his service weapon, according to the police account.
Police have acknowledged that Ingle was not armed and that he had no weapon of any kind in his hands. Stewart declined to say if either officer mistakenly thought he was armed in some manner, citing the open status of the state patrol’s investigation.
Neighbors reported hearing five shots fired. Joplin police have declined to say how many rounds were fired or how many struck Ingle pending the release of the patrol’s findings. They also have declined to discuss the range at which the shots were fired.
The incident was caught on body cameras worn by both officers. The videos from those cameras have not been released while the investigation remains open.
An eyewitness who was interviewed by the state patrol has declined to speak with the Globe. The newspaper’s efforts to reach Ingle’s family for comment also have proven unsuccessful to date.
Joplin resident Michael Deguerre, a former roommate of Ingle, says he never knew him to initiate violence of any kind and regarded him as generally “harmless.”
He said Ingle has had a number of brushes with police over the past several years, but they were mostly of the misdemeanor variety and often took place when he was suffering episodes of paranoia and delusions typical of schizophrenia. The incident reports obtained by the Globe suggest that intoxication was a factor as well in some of the incidents.
Ingle was arrested Jan. 11, 2017, in the 600 block of South Sergeant Avenue for public consumption of alcohol after police received a call reporting a man screaming.
Eight days later, he was arrested for making excessive noise at the Mayflower Apartments in the 600 block of West Fifth Street when his next-door neighbors reported that he seemed delusional, screaming and banging on the walls of his apartment. The responding officer’s report mentions Ingle’s schizophrenia but states that he did not meet the criteria for a 96-hour mental health hold because he was able to articulate to the officer that he had no desire to hurt himself or anyone else.
Five days after that second incident in January 2017, police were called again to the Mayflower Apartments, where Ingle purportedly had been yelling and cursing for two hours and seemed to the caller to be “under the influence of something.” The responding officer was unable to locate Ingle, and a citation for peace disturbance was sent to him by mail, according to the report of the incident.
Vinoverski noted in his report of the incident in July 2017 that Ingle “has a history of mental illness.” Police were called back to that same address on New Hampshire Avenue on Sept. 25, 2017, when the occupant of the house where Ingle was visiting both times sought police assistance in controlling his friend.
Matthew Stokes said Ingle usually was “just fine” when he would spend time with him. But there were times when he might have been off his medications or drinking and his behavior would turn erratic. On the occasion when Stokes called police, he was intoxicated and kept trying to throw a chair through a window of Stokes’ home.
Stokes said he just wanted police assistance in calming him down. He told the dispatcher they needed to hurry, but it took too long for an officer to get there and by the time they did arrive, Stokes was having to wrestle with his friend to try to keep him from driving. Ingle ended up driving away with an officer in pursuit and crashed his car at the Walmart store on Range Line Road. The incident resulted in an arrest for driving while intoxicated.
While he knows firsthand that his friend could at times be difficult to control, Stokes said Ingle “never hurt a person in his life,” and he views the police shooting of him as “completely inappropriate.”
“There’s no need to shoot and kill somebody who’s unarmed,” Stokes told the Globe.
Meador’s prior contact with Ingle came in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, 2017, when he was called to the Old Broadway Club at 702 E. Langston Hughes-Broadway.
The bartender told Meador that David Ingle had been into the bar twice, highly intoxicated and asking for beer. The bartender said he appeared to be bleeding from an injury to his head. The bartender refused to serve him the first time and told him to leave. Ingle returned about 10 minutes later, asking for beer again. He had taken off the head gear and leather jacket he was wearing and now appeared all the more bloodied.
The bartender told the officer that he refused to serve him a second time and threatened to call police. Meador noted in his report that the bartender had not called until almost three hours after Ingle’s attempts to be served and he was no longer in the vicinity.
Meador and other officers subsequently went to Ingle’s address, where they found a light on inside, but no one answered the door.
A couple of hours later, Meador was dispatched to the Casey’s convenience store at 403 N. Main St., where a woman in her 30s had sought refuge from a stranger who jumped into her car at an intersection. She told police the man got in her car at the intersection of C Street and Byers Avenue as she was leaving a friend’s house about 5 a.m.
She said she asked: “Who the f--- are you?” He didn’t respond. She told him to get out. He just stared straight ahead through the windshield.
She drove to the convenience store, went inside and locked herself in the restroom, asking the clerk to call police. Ingle had followed her into the store, according to Meador’s report. The woman, who was visibly shaken, told Meador she was willing to sign a complaint, and Ingle was arrested on a charge of vehicle tampering.
Meador’s report states that Ingle was transported to jail without incident.
Joplin attorney William Fleischaker recently questioned Meador’s use of deadly force in dealing with Ingle in a Globe guest column, suggesting there were alternative, less drastic measures available on the use-of-force continuum that officers follow when confronted with unruly persons. He further posited that the shooting might well reflect a deficiency in officer training.
Retired Joplin police Capt. Bob Higginbotham challenges those contentions in an opinion column appearing in today’s edition. He calls the notion that an officer should progress through a menu of force options in the midst of a dynamic and rapidly evolving encounter with a hostile person “an antiquated approach” that the FBI has termed “a prescription for hesitation.”
Higginbotham, who wrote the use-of-force policy for the Joplin Police Department, says officers faced with hostile subjects physically superior to them — either because they are bigger and stronger or just preternaturally resistant to measures to control them because of a mental illness or the influence of alcohol and drugs — can be killed or seriously injured if they do not get an opportunity to disengage and put physical distance between them and the subject.
“Officers try to stay away from people for that reason,” Higginbotham said in an interview this week.
In close quarters contact with someone exhibiting signs of mental illness, there may be no guarantee the officer can win a hand-to-hand contest, he said. Even with an unarmed person, a single punch can disable or even kill the officer, he said.
In practically every such confrontation involving a police officer, there is at least one gun on the scene — the officer’s service weapon, Higginbotham said. If the person with whom the officer is struggling has been acting in an erratic and unstable manner, the peril to the safety of others is heightened should that individual win the fight and gain control of the officer’s weapon, he said.
“You simply can’t risk losing the fight,” Higginbotham said.
Fleischaker responded in an interview this week that the use-of-force continuum may or may not be “antiquated” as Higginbotham refers to it. The attorney acknowledges that the continuum has changed some in just the past 10 years. But it still plays a role in excessive use of force lawsuits, where police officer defendants frequently invoke its guidance in their own defense, Fleischaker said.
“I agree: When you are faced with a split-second decision, you don’t have the time to sit down and think things through, but that’s why training is so important,” he said.
The police account’s acknowledgement that both officers deployed their stun guns multiple times with little or no effect and that one of them was struck by a probe from one of their own stun guns “certainly raises the question whether they were properly deployed,” Fleischaker said.
Final judgment of the officers’ actions must await the findings of the investigation, he said. But at this point, there does not appear to be any claim, as in some other officer-involved shootings nationwide, that the Joplin officer mistakenly believed Ingle was armed, he said.
“The bottom line is this: You have an unarmed man and two law enforcement officers,” Fleischaker said. “If those officers are properly trained, that should not result in the death of a civilian.”