Detroit — An attorney for Terrance Kellom's family said Friday a federal agent shot the suspect in the back during a raid last month, which he said prosecutors have delayed telling the public because it would cause "outrage."
Karri Mitchell said during a press conference he saw Kellom's body, and there was an entrance wound in his back.
"Because of how many times he was shot, and where he was shot, it would create outrage," Mitchell said. "He was shot in the back. I saw the body at the funeral home."
Mitchell Quinn, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, shot and killed Kellom, 20, in his northwest Detroit home April 27, while he and other members of a multijurisdictional task force were trying to arrest him for the suspected armed robbery of a pizza delivery man.
Quinn's attorney, David Griem and Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Kellom lunged at the agent with a hammer. Kellom's father, who witnessed the shooting, insists his son's hands were empty.
Wayne County prosecutors sealed Kellom's autopsy report because they said its release would impede their investigation.
Griem said it's not significant where on his body Kellom was shot, because he said the two men were falling as the agent fired his weapon multiple times.
"Agent Quinn was on his feet when he fired the first shot, and the several more that were fired subsequently came as he was falling backwards," Griem said. "We believe he was trying to disengage himself from Kellom, who could have turned as he was falling backwards. So whether one of the the shots is not into (Kellom's) chest does not mean anything.
"When you're being attacked, whether you're a police officer or not, you're not held to Marquis of Queenbury rules (that govern boxing)," Griem said.
Mitchell would not say where the bullet wound was in Kellom's back, adding he wasn't sure of the trajectory. But he said he knows the difference between an entrance and exit bullet wound. He said he didn't have a pathologist look at the body or photos he took of the body, and said he would wait for the autopsy results.
Ryan Bridges, spokesman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office, said he couldn't comment on Mitchell's comments.
"Prosecutors have asked us not to comment because it could potentially ruin the investigation," he said.
Griem said Quinn and his family went into hiding because the agent feared for their safety after someone posted his address online.
The shooting prompted protests near the Kellom home, and calls for calm by police officials and community leaders.
Craig was asked about the case during a press conference Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who called for the creation of a national commission to review the criminal justice system.
Craig said he "made nothing" out of the claims Kellom was shot in the back.
"You have to wait and see the findings that come out of the prosecutor's office," Craig said. "As the attorney pointed out, (Kellom) was shot several times. I'm not going to pass judgment; it could be wounds to the front; it could be wounds to the back. It just depends.
Being shot in the back "in and of itself, does not ... support one version. We should let the investigation play out."
Quinn was part of the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team, made up of several local and federal law enforcement agencies. After getting a tip that Kellom was in his home, officers from ICE, Detroit Police Department, the Oakland County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Marshals were dispatched to arrest him.
Hours after the shooting, Teria Kellom told The Detroit News her brother was staying at his father's house when officers arrived, saying they had a search warrant, she said.
Her father first told police his son wasn't there, Teria Kellom said. She said she asked to see the search warrant and officers told her they would show her father the warrant after family members left the home. Officers then went inside to search for her brother, Kellom said.
Griem said Kellom jumped out from behind a blanket that was covering a doorway and tried to hit Quinn with a hammer, and that the agent opened fire before Kellom fell on top of him.
Kellom's father, Kevin Kellom, insists his son's hands were empty and that when he complied with the agent's order to raise his hands, Quinn suddenly started firing.
Nine shell casings were taken from the home, according to a search warrant return the Kellom family provided to The Detroit News.
The Detroit Police Homicide Task Force and Michigan State Police first investigated the shooting and turned their findings over to prosecutors Wednesday, Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said. The two departments were looking into whether Quinn was defending himself, as his attorney claims, or if he committed a crime.
"Our office is in the process of conducting an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of Terrance Kellom, while the investigation is pending we will not comment on any aspect of the matter," Miller said.
Mitchell said when he was 20 years old, he was attacked by a man wielding a hammer.
"I moved to the side and popped him in the jaw, and we struggled for the hammer," he said. "Someone with a hammer isn't life-threatening — unless you're a coward.
"According to Quinn's own story, there were several highly-trained officers there, and they have Tasers. Why didn't one of those officers grab (Kellom's) arm when he brought the hammer up? (Quinn) is a coward."
Griem replied: "That doesn't even deserve a response."
Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, who also was at Friday's press conference, said the autopsy results should be released, and criticized ICE for withholding information about the incident.
"We believe there has not been transparency in this case," Scott said. "There are questions that are being swept under the table."
In New York City on Wednesday, officers on patrol in Midtown Manhattan approached a man who matched the description of someone who had struck four people in their heads with a hammer Monday, seriously injuring all of them.
Police say the man, David Baril, who has a history of mental illness, rushed toward them with a bloodstained hammer, which he swung, claw-end forward, at one of the officers, Lauren O'Rourke. Her partner, Officer Geraldo Casaigne, fired at Baril four times, striking him twice. Baril, who was charged with assault, is in critical condition.
Detroit News Staff Writer Charles E. Ramirez contributed.