Officer in Kiwane Carrington shooting suspended for 30 days

CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign police officer has been suspended for a month without pay for the fatal shooting of a teen last fall.

The discipline for Officer Dan Norbits was announced Thursday morning by City Manager Steve Carter, who determined the penalty for the 15-year officer. It is the longest suspension that can be imposed, under the city's contract with the union representing police.

Carter said he did not believe Norbits, 39, intended to fire his weapon but found that he violated police departmental policy by failing to maintain control of his weapon.

Carter told Norbits of his decision Wednesday. He said Norbits is off the rest of this week but will not have to serve the suspension until any possible appeal by the Fraternal Order of Police on his behalf is complete. Should Norbits decide to appeal, that could take months. Until then, Norbits remains on paid administrative leave working inside the police station.

“My heart goes out to the Carrington family as they continue to live with this tragedy. It has been a difficult time for everyone in our community, including our elected officials, police officers and other employees in the city of Champaign. We recognize that no action on the part of the city can make up for the loss of Mr. Carrington’s life,” Carter said.

Carter’s discipline was based on a three-tiered review of the case: that of retired Urbana Police Chief Eddie Adair and Retired McLean County Circuit Judge John Freese; an internal investigation headed by Deputy Chief Holly Nearing; and a review by a five-member board of police officers who investigate officer shootings.

Tamara Cummings, lawyer for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, said Norbits is "disappointed" by the decision, but has not made a decision about whether to appeal.

The review by Adair and Freese and that of Nearing agreed that Norbits, while not acting intentionally in shooting Kiwane Carrington on Oct. 9, had violated departmental policy on the handling of his firearm.

The Firearms Discharge Review Board recommended that professionals further review the circumstances of the shooting that occurred in the back yard of 906 W. Vine St., C, where Norbits and Police Chief R.T. Finney responded to a burglary in progress about 1:30 p.m. that day.

The two officers confronted Carrington and Jeshaun Manning-Carter, 16, believing that they were two of three suspects trying to break in the home. In the space of less than a minute, Finney had subdued Manning-Carter and Norbits had fired on Carrington although he said he had no intention of shooting him.

The reports were released Thursday morning by Carter.

In their report, Adair and Freese noted that Norbits has received several awards during his tenure but has also been disciplined on “several occasions.”

Citing the state Personnel Records Review Act, the prior acts for which Norbits was disciplined were not made public.

Adair and Freese’s report concluded that Norbits had received the proper training in the handling of his gun but apparently did not apply it.

The specific policy he was found to have violated involved the requirement that an officer keep his index finger on the barrel of the weapon until ready to fire. Norbits had his finger on the trigger of his .45-caliber Glock.

The report recommends not only that Norbits be disciplined for violating that policy but that the  department make ‘indexing of a weapon,’ which is taught at the department’s basic orientation course, part of the annual firearms training officers receive.

Adair and Freese wrote that citizens have an expectation that they will be protected from the “accidental or careless use of a duty weapon by a police officer.”

They noted that Norbits wasn’t sure what he would find entering that back yard, having heard Finney order the youths to the ground and having seen him draw his weapon. Norbits followed suit, aware that Finney was struggling with Manning-Carter.

“Training would have informed Officer Norbits that he needed to maintain a safe distance from his subject with his weapon drawn and to not approach the subject to ‘put hands on’ without first holstering and securing his weapon. Instead, with Chief Finney engaged with his subject almost immediately to Officer Norbits’ left, Norbits advanced upon his subject (Kiwane Carrington) and tried to take his subject to the ground with one hand, his left hand, all the while holding his weapon in his right hand.

“Officer Norbits does not know how or why his duty weapon discharged. He does not suggest, nor is there any evidence, that Carrington struck or grabbed the weapon. In his statements to investigators, Norbits recognized that training required him to maintain his weapon with finger indexed, until he determined to discharge his weapon and also indicated that he did not intend to discharge his weapon on this occasion.

“There appears to be no other explanation for the firing of the weapon in this case than that, during his physical exertion to try to take Carrington to the ground with his left hand, Norbits’ index finger on his right hand (gun hand) placed sufficient pressure on the trigger to discharge the weapon. This is further supported by the autopsy report indicating that the path that the bullet traveled upon discharge suggests that Carrington was below the weapon when it discharged.

“Norbits’ actions ... were violative of the Illinois Mandatory Firearms Training Manual, as promulgated by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.”

Quoting from that body’s manual, the report said: “Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.”

Adair and Freese also pointed to a “deficiency in communication” between Norbits and Finney prior to the shooting.

“According to the statements of Chief Finney and Officer Norbits no communication occurred between them — either verbally or by signal — before or during the engagement of the suspects and the attempted arrests.”

They also noted how quickly everything happened. The last radio transmission by Finney before the gun was fired was at 1:30:22 when Finney was on foot east of 906 W. Vine and before he entered the back yard. The first transmission by Finney after the gun fired was at 1:31:06 when he called for an ambulance.

“A total of 44 seconds elapsed between these two transmissions and there was no intervening police radio traffic. It is appropriate to note that this total incident occurred during a relatively short period of time.”

In her internal review, Deputy Chief Holly Nearing concluded that while Norbits was well-trained for such incidents and that he did not intentionally use deadly force, he was “required to handle his weapon with due care, and the fact that it discharged most likely by (his) hand is evidence that it was not handled with due care.”

Nearing also noted that if Carrington had cooperated with Norbits’ instructions, “the discharge of the weapon likely would not have happened.”

The Firearms Discharge Review Board came to a similar conclusion. Having heard from both Finney and Norbits, the board concluded the officers used sound tactics in approaching the house with weapons drawn.

But the board, made up of five Champaign police officers, said the sudden appearance of Manning-Carter and Carrington “changed the dynamics.” Some board members, the report said, believe Carrington’s actions “so significantly affected this event that it was not possible to attribute the outcome to negligence by Officer Norbits.”

Still to come is a review of the shooting by the U.S. Department of Justice, requested by Carter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is doing a review of the work that Illinois State Police did.

Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz just last week dismissed charges against Manning-Carter alleging he resisted arrest by Finney. Earlier, she concluded that the officers had done nothing to warrant criminal charges.

More in Friday's News-Gazette. 

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420 wrote on April 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

He should be fired, not just given a 30 day vacation. He acted with out regard for the life of another human being and did not follow procedure. There is no excuse none for the officers actions. If this were a citizen and not a cop that had done this there most certainly would be reckless homicide/ manslaughter charges pending, but like always cops are above the law and are never held accountable for their actions as this case clearly shows!

LittleRed wrote on April 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Thank you Officer Norbits and every other police officer for your bravery. I wouldn't want your job and the people who are screaming for your head on a platter should be ashamed of themselves.

bigdog27 wrote on April 22, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Littlered, you have it so right!

spangwurfelt wrote on April 22, 2010 at 5:04 pm

So, after the thirty days, do they not only give him his job back but his gun back too? He doesn't seem to be able to handle either one.

PanchoAngry wrote on April 23, 2010 at 12:04 am

If it were up to me I wouldn't stop with firing Norbits. Finney, Rietz, and Schweighart have done their best to make a bad situation worse. This trifling suspension is a guarantee there'll be more mayhem in our future.

I say that knowing it's almost impossible to put up with some people, year after year, who are bent on disregarding other's rights, not to mention their own best interests. I tried it once myself and had to throw my hands up in total disgust. But that's the job. It's what makes good cops so invaluable.

I'm guessing we need our officers to come from Champaign and not mostly from the surrounding towns where people grow up with attitudes that are completely wrong for the job.

vpop wrote on April 23, 2010 at 4:04 am

Until any of you have walked in a police officer's shoes, have felt the fear of the unknown, have seen, heard, and smelled true human suffering on a scale no one else can imagine, you can not simply pass judgement on what you think should have happened or what should be done. It is not a TV show it is reality! The people you would so easily brand as evil would be the first to come rushing to your aid risking their own lives in the process. Do you possess that ability or the inner character to take on such a job? Would you stake your life and professional reputation on making split second decisions time after time which 100 percent have to be right?? Thank God for all the police officers who leave home every day and risk all to protect everyone! You call them all sorts of vile names but when you need help, really need help...you simply call them.

spangwurfelt wrote on April 23, 2010 at 7:04 am

Oh, stop with the self-pity. Nobody's said anybody's "evil" -- just that "everybody makes mistakes" doesn't either bring Carrington back or mend the serious damage to the already bad reputation CPD has among minorities.

CharacterCounts wrote on April 23, 2010 at 7:04 am

I have the highest respect for Champaign City Manager Steve Carter and believe he serves the city of Champaign in an excellent manner. But I disagree with his decision on suspending this officer. The officer should not have been suspended or fired.

This problem was caused by the failure of the two youths to follow the legal commands of the police officers. If the two youths would have followed the commands of the police officers, no issues or problems would have followed.

Put the blame where it belongs. The blame should be on the shoulders of the two youths who have/had no discipline and refused to follow a legal command by police officers.

The community of Champaign should be addressing the problem of some in the community who fail to obey police officers and then complain when the police officers have to take action. The black ministers in the community should be communicating with black youth that they must obey the law and respect police officers. If the youth disagree with the police officers, file a complaint later or if they are charged with a crime, plead not guilty and they will have their day in court.

It is a shame that some activitist believe it is the police who are causing the problems when in fact it those with whom the police come in contact and are not following the law who are causing the problem. Teach discipline and respect of the law and many of the issues and problems that some in the community complain about will go away.

spangwurfelt wrote on April 23, 2010 at 8:04 am

Revolting. As long as the CPD attitude remains, "it's all Carrington's fault," they demonstrate that they have learned absolutely nothing from the entire incident. One can only hope that the now-inevitable multimillion-dollar civil settlement will get the city's attention in a way a simple call for justice could not.

illini_trucker wrote on April 23, 2010 at 8:04 am

This is just a bunch of total BS. Hope you taxpayers are READY TO PAY!!! Check this out. I used to drive for JB Hunt. Got into an accident. The idiot went from 60 miles an hour to ZERO on the interstate. I had THREE witnesses to my benefit, another JB Hunt driver to verify my following distance, and the police officer wrote the other guy a ticket and LET ME GO. Within 24 hours I was TERMINATED from the company, citing that I could have prevented the accident by going even slower than an 8 second following distance. Upon arriving at home, I worked with the other guys insurance company fully, with the same statement; "No I am not at fault, your client even admitted fault, however the company I was employed by claimed I could have prevented the accident, thereby admitting company fault." My damage; an honest and truthful retribution complete, to the company that would not stand behind their driver; it ended up costing JB Hunt $36,000 plus court costs by the time the case was settled.

Same concept here. By doing this (again, damage ALREADY done) you just OFFICIALLY paved the way for the negligent caretaker, Kenesha Williams (still cannot figure out why the kid wasn't in school) to get her millions from the taxpayers. GOOD JOB Champaign!!!

illini_trucker wrote on April 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

This is just a bunch of total BS. Hope you taxpayers are READY TO PAY!!! Check this out. I used to drive for JB Hunt. Got into an accident. The idiot went from 60 miles an hour to ZERO on the interstate. I had THREE witnesses to my benefit, another JB Hunt driver to verify my following distance, and the police officer wrote the other guy a ticket and LET ME GO. Within 24 hours I was TERMINATED from the company, citing that I could have prevented the accident by going even slower than an 8 second following distance. Upon arriving at home, I worked with the other guys insurance company fully, with the same statement; "No I am not at fault, your client even admitted fault, however the company I was employed by claimed I could have prevented the accident, thereby admitting company fault." My damage; an honest and truthful retribution complete, to the company that would not stand behind their driver; it ended up costing JB Hunt $36,000 plus court costs by the time the case was settled.

Same concept here. By doing this (again, damage ALREADY done) you just OFFICIALLY paved the way for the negligent caretaker, Kenesha Williams (still cannot figure out why the kid wasn't in school) to get her millions from the taxpayers. GOOD JOB Champaign!!!

EDDIE ADAIR, JOHN FREESE, AND HOLLY NEARING.... I highly suggest you strap on your police belts and hit the beat in Officer Norbits' absence. Its become a common saying for our soldiers as well...

IF YOU WON'T STAND BEHIND OUR POLICE OFFICERS... THEN BY ALL MEANS.... FEEL FREE TO STAND IN FRONT OF THEM!!!!!!!

Kudos to Chief Finney for being an acitve member of the beat instead of a pencil pusher like the idiots you have above you...

jeharmon wrote on April 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

Re : comment #3 , you hit the nail on the head !!! Had they listened to the simple and lawful commands and done as they should this would never had left the back yard. I can't believe they try this " oh i was scared the police are mean to us " crap, anyone in that situation would be scared but if your doing nothing wrong and you do as your told it will all be squared away in a matter of minutes. Now because of the idiotic actions of these two "youths" ( old enough to know better ) we had a death, a officer who has gone through hell, and a bunch of people trying to get away with stuff because if the police say anything to them they pull the race card . What a mess !!

jeharmon wrote on April 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

sorry, I should have said Re: comment from Character Counts.

spangwurfelt wrote on April 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

In an important sense, you're right, it doesn't matter what race Carrington was. What matters is that, when push came to shove, Norbits couldn't handle his gun, and a boy is dead because of it.

Keith Hays wrote on April 23, 2010 at 5:04 pm

One must wonder at the intellect that cannot believe the authenticity of a State's Certification of Live Birth while believing that a well trained and experienced police officer "accidentally" pulled the trigger of his service weapon.

Mike C wrote on April 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Cause and Effect - Criminal actions cause the police to respond. If you don't commit a crime and if you don't disobey a police officer, you don't get hurt. If you break the law and try to harm a police officer, your chances of getting hurt are increased.

The obvious scape goat theory was applied in this case. The town is upset a child was killed. This is the same child who should know right from wrong. This is the same child who has the ability to kill the police officer. The good guy wins in this case, but the politicians need to maintain their votes. The can't fire the officer, because he has done his job. There only way out is suspend him for a poorly written policy.

A simple solution in the future would be not to respond to any in progress property crimes. But see how long it takes for the citizens to complain about lack of a police presence.

Great job officer, you went home safely and the bad guy will not be able to commit any additional crimes against society.