Officer in 2018 Shelby Twp. killing of man declined to give a statement to investigators

Jasmin Barmore
The Detroit News

The Shelby Township police officer who fired the shot that killed unarmed Kanwarbir Malhi in November 2018 declined to provide a statement or agree to an interview in the investigation, according to the case report from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office. 

According to the report from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office, Gordana Misovski, the attorney representing Officer Jason Zuk, said, "Officer Zuk would not be providing a report or verbal statement regarding the incident."

The investigative report gives the first detailed glimpse of what officers say happened on the night of Nov. 3, 2018. The investigation resulted in a request for a manslaughter warrant issued against the officer; the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office declined the request. Attorney General Dana Nessel said this week that she will reopen the investigation into the case.  

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Although no fewer than seven officers responded to the scene that night, Zuk was the only one to fire. His lone shot from a Remington 870 Police Magnum 12-gauge shotgun struck Malhi in the chest.

Officer Joe Wojcik was the first to respond to the scene. He wrote that he "observed the subject reaching for something in the backseat of the car. (Wojcik) ordered the subject to show ... his hands time after time and he refused to do so. The subject then stated he had a gun."

"The subject was advised to show officers his hands several times, but he continued to reach for something in his front hoodie pocket. Fearing for my safety and officers on scene writer was beginning the process of lethal force when Officer Zuk, who was providing cover, discharged his shotgun at the subject striking him once in the neck and upper chest.”

Verbal commands issued

According to the reports, the subject was given several verbal commands to show his hands and refused. Writer observed the subject appear to take a step towards the officers with his hands still inside his coat.

Officer Robert Veprauskas, who did not activate video or audio at the scene, reported that: "As soon as the suspect stood straight up, he then reached into his jacket and waistline of his pants with his two hands and started charging toward Office Wojcik’s patrol car. As (the officer) was getting ready to fire to stop the threat, (he) heard the shotgun go off and hit the suspect.”

“The suspect fell down and sat back up and continued to reach into his jacket/waistline are like he was grabbing for a weapon.”

Another officer's report stated that he heard Malhi's sister, Krisham Malhi, say: "Her brother had likely stopped taking his medication for mental health and started using alcohol."  He also noted that he heard Ms. Malhi say to Detective David Treworgy "her brother made statements about ‘if the police came for him, he wouldn’t be taken alive’ and ‘suicide by cop.’”

It's not clear if Malhi's sister gave those statements before or after the shooting.

The investigating officer contacted Misovski regarding Zuk's cooperation after being denied of it twice by Shelby Township's Capt. Jason Schmittler.   

Gordana, who represents the Police Officers Association of Michigan, declined to comment about why officer Zuk did not provide a statement for the incident. 

Stolen car spotted in complex

The incident began when Shelby Township police responded to a complaint regarding a stolen vehicle and a mentally ill driver, according to police. The car was spotted by a patrol officer in the complex where the driver lived. Malhi, 25, was in the driver's seat. 

Dash cam footage of the incident that was never released to the public surfaced last week, the same day as Shelby Township police Chief Robert Shelide returned to work from a 30-day suspension for posting inflammatory comments on social media directed toward Black Lives Matter protesters. On Thursday,Nessel announced that her office would be looking into the case and doing a new investigation. She said her office would present its findings in a transparent and unbiased way.

After the township's investigation, Shelide and two other officers that make up his Executive Board decided to turn the investigation over to Macomb County Sheriff's Office, according to his 2018 press conference on the incident.  

Detective Mark Morfino was assigned to the case.

Morfino arrived at the scene after being contacted by the Shelby Township Police Department.  Morfino was briefed on the scene by Schmittler and others.

 Six days later, he was told by Schmittler that Zuk's statement was not available.  

Morfino inquired about Zuk's report again on Nov. 20. Schmittler said it was still unavailable and gave him Gordana's contact information. Morfino was denied a comment from Zuk and a verbal interview by Gordana.  

The Detroit News reached out to Zuk for comment on Friday. He was not able to be immediately reached.

Arrest warrant denied

An arrest warrant request for "Homicithesede-Manslaughter-Death by Weapon Aimed with Intent but without Malice" was sent to Macomb County Prosecutor's Office. It was denied by Assistant Prosecutor William L. Cataldo on Jan. 29, 2019. 

Macomb County Prosecutor's Office has since changed leadership. The head of the Prosecutor's Office at the time of the investigation, Eric Smith, resigned after being charged with multiple criminal offenses involving corruption within his office.

On Friday, the prosecutor's office declined to comment on the investigation.

In November 2019, Zuk and Wojcik were honored with the Police Officer of the Year Award by the Police Officers Association of Michigan in light of the Nov. 3 incident. Zuk retired from the Shelby Township Police Department in 2020 after 25 years of service, including seven with the Detroit Police Department.