Man suspected in Warren grandmother's death killed by Toledo, Ohio officers
A man suspected in the death of his 68-year-old Warren grandmother was killed Thursday by police in Ohio after he grabbed an officer's Taser, authorities said.
The suspect, identified as Damon Austin Barstad, 23, was arrested by authorities at 3:36 a.m. Thursday in Toledo, said Toledo police Chief George Kral.
The shooting capped a path from Warren to Ohio when the suspect was tracked to Toledo and arrested after Warren police found his grandmother stuffed in a trash can in the garage of her home in the 24200 block of Masch in the city. She had been stabbed, said Police Commissioner William Dwyer. Two knives were found in the trash bin.
Dwyer confirmed the woman’s name as Kathleen Morrissette.
Barstad asked to be removed from his cell in Toledo at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to use a restroom. As officers opened his cell, Barstad charged at them, Kral said during a news conference at police headquarters.
“When we let him out, he rushed at one of the officers and was pushed back into the holding cell,” Kral said. “At one point during the struggle, he gained control of an officer’s Taser."
The officer fired one round, killing Barstad, Kral said.
Toledo police said they did not question Barstad when he was arrested because he immediately asked for a lawyer. Kral said Barstad was being held while Toledo authorities awaited a warrant from Michigan. Police said they provided food for him and did not place him in handcuffs.
“Out of a courtesy for him, we unhandcuffed him, and he did what he did when we let him out,” Kral said.
Kral said an internal affairs investigation and firearm review will be conducted. The officer who fired at Barstad has been with the Toledo department for eight years and has been placed on paid leave during the investigation. The incident involved five officers, Kral said.
“At this stage of the investigation, we are interviewing officers, collecting evidence and when we get done with all of that. .. we will present it to the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office for presentation in front of a grand jury,” he said.
Morrissette was found fatally stabbed inside a trash can Wednesday night in her garage on Masch.
Late Thursday, police tape circled the brick ranch-style home. A snowflake-shaped decoration hung near the door, and multicolored Christmas lights were draped across the front porch.
Jerome Glowski, a neighbor, said Morrissette had been living on the block for about five years and her grandson had only started staying there after being dropped off with a bag one day this fall.
Glowski, in his eighties, said he never spoke with the young man but remembered the grandmother's kindness, including volunteering to shovel snow from his driveway, and attention to her yard.
"She was a very kind person," he said. "She was a bright spot in the neighborhood."
Barstad had been charged with first-degree murder, a felony carrying a life sentence if convicted, and unlawfully driving away an automobile, a five-year felony. He was to be arraigned in Warren's 37th District Court pending extradition from Ohio.
According to a Facebook page attributed to Damon Barstad, he attended Monroe High School and had worked as a laborer-operator for an automotive parts supplier.
On some occasions, his grandmother reached out to him through the website.
"Happy Birthday Grandson! We miss you terribly and would love to meet your girlfriend. Love & God Bless – Grandma," she wrote in a post more than a year ago.
Morrissette's disappearance was reported about 11 p.m. Wednesday when the woman’s son called police and said he hadn’t seen or talked to his mother since Saturday, said Warren police Commissioner William Dwyer. The suspect was the son of the man who called police.
Police went to the Masch residence and found the woman's body in her detached garage.
The investigation pointed to Barstad, who’d been living with her. The woman's black 2012 GMC Terrain was traced to a mall in Toledo; Barstad was traced to a Days Inn at 1800 Miami in Toledo, about nine miles from where the Terrain had been abandoned after it broke down.
The suspect was tracked using “high-tech technology,” which Dwyer said went beyond a simple GPS reading. He would specify what was used to track Barstad.
Members of the special operations unit carried out surveillance and the arrest. The vehicle was brought back to Michigan.
“This is a sad day for the family and the community,” said Dwyer, noting the fourth homicide of the year in Warren. That’s down from seven in 2017 — still “four too many,” Dwyer said.
In the four cases, he said, the suspects and victims were “related or acquainted,” and in all four, arrests were made within hours.