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Shot that killed officer Kim 'horrible luck'

Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 02, 2015

CINCINNATI – Prosecutor Joe Deters said it was "a horrible piece of luck" that Cincinnati police officer Sonny Kim died from one of three shots in an ambush on a Madisonville street on June 19.

The fatal shot in Kim's left side pierced the officer's body armor between two ribs of Kim's vest, then veered and cut the pulmonary artery, the prosecutor said.

"It was non-survivable," Deters said Wednesday morning during a news conference to reveal details of the investigation of Kim's killing.

RELATED: See edited cruiser cam video

Deters said the difference between Kim's surviving and dying was "centimeters." The other shots passed through Kim's arms. 

The ribbing of Kim's vest "was described to us like a deck of cards, a webbing, so the vest can expand," Deters said. "If [the bullet] had hit one of the ribs of that vest, it would have stopped it."

Spec. Tom Sandmann, the officer who shot and killed Kim's assailant, TrePierre Hummons, "deserves a medal" for saving other officers' lives and won't face charges, Deters said.

Hummons was intent on "mass murder," Deters said.

"He was going to kill as many cops as he could ...  If he had 50 guns, he would have emptied every gun he had at responding officers," the prosecutor said.

But Sandmann, who arrived on the scene after Kim was mortally wounded, shot and killed Hummons in a gunfight.

Deters released the dash cam video from Sandmann's cruiser, saying it was appropriate to do so once the investigation was over and since it didn't show Kim's murder. However, since the raw video shows Kim lying wounded in the street, Deters chose to release two versions and showed an edited version at the news conference.

The edited video – about 30 seconds - shows Hummons walking down the middle of the street, past Kim, and firing at Sandmann with Kim's gun. One shot went through Sandmann's driver-side window as Sandmann got out of the car, Deters said.

The edited video shows Hummons being shot by Sandmann, then ends abruptly. Deters said Sandmann had survived by doing just what he was trained to do. Once he got out of his car, Sandmann ran behind it and took a defensive position, then returned fire at Hummons.

"The gunfight occurred right there," Deters said.

Sandmann fired "16-17 shots" at Hummoms and struck him twice - in the chest and side, Deters said.

Interim Police Chief Eliot Isaac said Sandmann is on active duty and "performing in a professional, excellent way." Sandmann was not at the news conference and declined to comment when contacted by WCPO.

Kim, 48 and a 27-year veteran of Cincinnati’s police force, was lured to the corner of Whetsel Avenue and Roe Street by a report of a man "walking around, getting belligerent with a gun." Hummons, 21, made that call himself, police said following the shooting.

Deters described how Kim was caught off guard when he got to the scene and saw Hummons and his mother in the street. Deters said Hummons' mother approached Kim and said her son was acting strangely.

"I'll talk to him," she said, according to Deters. She told Kim her son was unarmed. She didn't know her son had a gun, Deters said.

Kim got out of the car and drew his Taser - not his gun.

"She [Hummons' mother] has her back to Hummons. She doesn't realize he's armed. He reaches into his back waistband, where he had the gun, goes around mom and shoots Sonny," Deters said.

Kim never shot back. He fell to the street. Hummons then wrestled away the officer's gun.

Deters said Hummons' girlfriend had signed a rape complaint against him the previous night and Hummons' mother said he was distraught.

"He did not want to be known as registered sex offender his whole life. The next morning she reported that he was acting strange, told her 'Everything is going to be all right today, mom,'" Deters said. "She went out to walk the dog and she ran into him on the street. His autopsy revealed he was under the influence of alcohol and a valium-like substance at the time of this incident."

A probation officer was at the scene before and during the shooting, and he talked to Hummons while Hummons and his mom were walking, Deters said.

"She approached the probation officer and said, 'My son's acting weird. Would you talk to him?' So they actually talked. Hummons said to the probation officer, 'Hey, you do a good job.' And he shook his hand and walked off. The probation officer hung around.

"After shots were fired at Sonny, the probation officer was behind the car. Probation officers are not police officers. They apparently are trained to take cover and that's what he did."

Hummons never shot at the probation officer, despite some news reports to the contrary, the prosecutor said.

"I think he wanted to kill uniformed officers," Deters said.

Deters made a point to say this was not "suicide by cop."

"I don't think he cared if he got killed," Deters said, "but this is not suicide by cop. Suicide by cop is when you confront the cops with a weapon, you don't shoot them. You're trying to be shot yourself, and that was not his goal. He shot Officer Kim.

"I believe his goal was to lure and kill as many police officers as he could, and if not for the actions of Spec. Tom Sandmann, there could have been a lot more dead police officers," Deters said.

WCPO's Tom McKee asked Isaac if his officers made any tactical errors.

"No, they responded appropriately," Isaac said.

WCPO's Jason Law asked Deters if there was any evidence of mental illness in Hummons, and Deters responded no.

"I'm sure the investigators talked to mom about it," Deters said.

McKee asked Isaac what lessons police had learned from the shootings.

"We must look after each other. We must also try to operate in a manner that these type of incidents don't happen," Isaac said. "If we come across someone like TrePierre Hummons, who may have some emotional distress, that  they get the help they need so they don't respond in this fashion."

Here are more comments from Deters:

> On why he didn't take the case to a grand jury:  "It's open and shut ... If it was close or something and we needed to let people look at it, I would have done it, but this isn't even close."

> On Hummons' mother: "She was on her knees over Sonny, trying to comfort him as he was dying ... She seems to be a pretty good lady with a very bad son."

> On Kim, a father of three sons:  "Sonny was everything Hummons was not. A loving husband. A loving father. He dedicated his life to the city and he paid the ultimate price to protect us."