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Local News

Officer ‘feared for his life’

Joliet police chief says officer ‘forced to act’ in shooting

More details have been released about a Joliet police officer killing a suspected bank robber Wednesday in what police appear to believe was a justified shooting.

In a Facebook post Friday, Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner said two “brave officers” went to the home of a suspected bank robber later identified as Bruce Carter, 38, and while they were trying to speak “with a female inside the home,” Carter allegedly “engaged and attacked” one of the officers while holding a “box cutter”-type knife.

“Fearing for his life and the lives around him, the officer was forced to act and shot the suspect in order to stop the threat,” Roechner said.

Carter died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds Wednesday at a house on South Des Plaines Street. He was pronounced dead at AMITA Health St. Joseph Medical Center.

Marcello Carter, the victim’s brother, has claimed that Bruce Carter wasn’t armed and the officer “killed an innocent man.” Marcello Carter did not respond to calls and messages Monday. Attempts to reach Bruce Carter’s family were unsuccessful.

The Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force was chosen by Joliet police to investigate the shooting. Ken Kroll, the agency’s chairman, said he believes Bruce Carter’s mother, who uses a wheelchair, was in the home along with a home health care professional at the time of the incident.

Kroll declined to comment on whether the shooting was justified, as investigators still were conducting interviews Monday.

“It’s way too early for me to make any statements because I haven’t read all the reports,” Kroll said.

Bruce Carter was suspected by the FBI and Joliet police of robbing First Midwest Bank on West Jefferson Street hours before he was killed Wednesday.

After listing Bruce Carter as “wanted” for four days after his death, the FBI said Bruce Carter was “captured” Sunday but didn’t identify him by name. The FBI’s wanted poster stated Bruce Carter should be “considered armed and dangerous.”

FBI Special Agent John Althen declined to answer questions about the robbery suspect’s apprehension, whether the suspect used a weapon in the robbery and how much was stolen from the bank. Althen said the FBI can’t provide more than what is posted on the FBI’s wanted bank robbers website unless a complaint has been filed.

Roechner said he cannot comment on what happened during the bank robbery other than to say Bruce Carter was identified by tellers at the bank as the robber.

“He did it. You’ve seen the photos,” he said.

Roechner repeatedly has declined to answer questions about the shooting, deferring to the major crimes task force. That agency, in turn, deferred to Joliet police.

Roechner said he cannot comment on whether it was a justified shooting.

“We don’t determine that. It’s the major crimes task force,” he said.

However, according to a Joliet police news release from Wednesday evening, the officer was “forced to defend himself” after becoming engaged with an armed man, and Roechner’s Facebook post said the officer feared for his life and was forced to shoot Bruce Carter.

Roechner said comments made in his Facebook post were based on the major crimes task force news release Thursday. But the task force’s news release only mentioned that a “physical struggle ensued” between the officer and Bruce Carter, who was armed with a “box cutter-style razor knife” during the struggle.

Roechner said he was not upset with Thursday’s story that quoted a witness who incorrectly reported that Bruce Carter fired at officers first with a gun. The witness, who declined to be named, claimed Bruce Carter “was shooting at them, and they shot back.”

Roechner said he understood The Herald-News was receiving limited information, even though Joliet police did not clarify Wednesday whether there was a shootout between Bruce Carter and the officers.

Roechner said he was concerned that The Herald-News published a story Friday with the headline “They killed an innocent man,” which quoted Marcello Carter, who was not there.

“How can he tell you what happened if he isn’t there?” Roechner said.

Kroll said that based on his limited conversations with Roechner, he believes Roechner is not commenting on the shooting to err on the side of caution. Kroll said that since the matter involves one of Roechner’s own officers, he’s not going to “interject himself in the investigation.”

“That’s my thought. That’s my belief,” Kroll said.

Kroll said the major crimes task force’s investigation of the shooting is performed the same way any police department would investigate a shooting. He said the investigation will involve the collection of interviews and evidence, which is reviewed and gathered for a report that’s submitted to a charging agency, which usually is the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.

He said the agency is trained to handle such situations and the department involved in the shooting cannot be part of the investigation.

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