Michigan Father Killed in Marijuana Child Removal Incident

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William Reddie (Photo: Drug War Chronicle)

By Phillip Smith

A prosecutor in northern Michigan has cleared the police officer who shot and killed a Grayling man as police and Child Protective Services (CPS) employees attempted to seize his three-year-old. The attempted removal of the minor child came after a police officer who came to the scene on a call earlier that same day reported that he smelled marijuana and reported the incident to CPS authorities, who decided the child needed to be removed. The dead man, William Reddie, 32, becomes the 17th person killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

[Editor’s Note: This case illustrates the difficulties that arise in determining which deaths qualify as being a direct result of drug law enforcement. Police here were enforcing child protections laws, not drug laws, but the only reason CPS was called in was because of the allegation of marijuana use. There was no allegation of crazed behavior due to marijuana use; only the allegation of use. For Michigan CPS authorities, that was enough to remove the child. Bottom line: This guy died because the state tried to take his kid because he was accused of smoking pot, so he merits inclusion. That doesn’t mean his own actions didn’t contribute to his death.]

Reddie’s killing took place on February 3, but we only became aware of it when news broke this week that prosecutors had decided that the police officer’s use of deadly force in the incident was justified.

According to the Crawford County Avalanche, Grayling police Officer Alan Somero was called to Reddie’s apartment for an alleged domestic disturbance. Somero made no arrests, but believed he smelled marijuana and reported it to CPS. Two CPS employees went to Reddie’s apartment to check on the situation. They then got a court order to remove Reddie’s 3-year-old son, Cameron, and asked police to escort them to the apartment to serve the court order.

The Gaylord Herald-Times, which obtained the CPS removal order, added more detail. It reported that Reddie had been accused of smoking marijuana in front of his son, and that Reddie had become “agitated” and threatened police when confronted by that accusation earlier in the day.

The court order gave the following reason for removing the child: “There are reasonable grounds for this court to remove the child(ren) from the parent… because conditions or surroundings of the child(ren), and is contrary to the welfare of the child(ren) to remain in the home because: It is alleged that the father used marijuana in the home in the presence of the child. In addition, there is concern for the safety of the child due to a domestic disturbance and threats made toward law enforcement by the father.”

Returning to the Avalanche’s narrative, when police and CPS workers arrived to seize the child, Reddie then reportedly displayed a pocketknife and lunged at them. Crawford County Deputy John Klepadlo shot and killed him. Police had been deploying Tasers, but holstered them and grabbed their guns when Reddie displayed the knife.

Crawford County Sheriff Kirk Wakefield then asked the Michigan State Police to investigate his deputy’s use of deadly force. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office referred the case to the neighboring Roscommon County Prosecutor’s Office. After receiving a report from the State Police, Roscommon County DA Mark Jernigan determined that the use of deadly force was justified and that Klepadlo would not be charged with any crime.

“The deceased was in possession of an edged weapon,” Jernigan said. “The deceased pulled a knife and hid it behind his back. At the point where he pulls his hand forward and lunges at the officer, he is in such close proximity, and presents a clear danger of deadly force, the officer is left with no option other than to use deadly force to protect himself, the other officer and the three civilians that were present. The use of deadly force is completely justified and therefore, the homicide was justified.”

Toxicology reports, which were included in the final investigation, showed there was no marijuana or alcohol in Reddie’s system when he was killed.

Reddie had been seeking permanent custody of his son and was due in court for a hearing on that matter three days after he was killed.

“They took the only thing he ever loved,” Reddie’s mother, Michelle VanBuren, told the Avalanche after the prosecutor’s announcement.

VanBuren said she was baffled by the conduct of authorities, especially since no evidence or alcohol or marijuana use was found. She said she had been in contact with her son throughout that day.

“I was on the phone with my son all day, and that cop was bullying him and harassing him so badly,” she said. “Where was protect and serve?” VanBuren asked. “The officers always have to stick together and for them to do this is just totally uncalled for.”

VanBuren said the family would continue to fight to ensure that CPS and law enforcement are held accountable for their actions. “They need to be held accountable and they will be held accountable, believe you me,” she said.

Reddie’s family is not alone in questioning police and CPS actions. “I can’t believe they (police) could not subdue Will without killing him, and over what, marijuana,” said Joanne Michal, who knew Reddie for half of his life. “Why didn’t police just arrest him or cite him for marijuana instead of removing his child?” she told the Herald-Times.

“It is particularly sad that Will was shot to death right in front of his son,” Michal continued. “Why not use a Taser? Even if he (Will) had a knife and lunged at police, they didn’t have to kill him. Instead of using a Taser, you shoot him in front of his child. It is just totally unjustified. They didn’t have to kill him. I think it’s very sad that his life was taken during the removal of his son. And the smell of marijuana shouldn’t have been a reason for an emergency order. Just a few days before he was killed, Will was visiting, and he was so excited because a hearing was coming up for custody. And it seemed to give him hope of getting permanent custody. His son was everything to him.”

Crawford County Clerk Sandra Moore said she also knew Reddie. “It’s truly a shame,” Moore said. “He was a good guy and very fond of his son. He had been very excited just days before” about gaining permanent custody.

Cameron Reddie is now in foster care. His father’s family is seeking visitation rights.

Meanwhile, Deputy Klepadlo, who had been on administrative leave after the shooting, is back on the job.

Grayling, MI
United States

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Contributed by Phillip Smith of StoptheDrugWar.org.

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  • Evie

    What country do I live in again???

    • Todd C

      I know right? I wonder the same damn thing. WTH is going on.

  • RickE.

    Someone is lying big time!
    If the father tested negative on a drug test for THC, that means that in all probability the father hadn’t smoked it in quite some time!
    It can stay up to 45 days in one’s system.

    This means that officer Somero was smelling someone else’s marijuana, or none at all, and was untruthful.

  • patriot

    this just proves if you are going to stand up for your God given rights against these criminal thugs first use your head then meet force with equal or superior force…

  • Barn Cat

    Drugs are for losers. Potheads should lose their parental rights. My wife’s brother-in-law was a pothead who didn’t care about anything or anyone except getting high. But he did give pop to his grade school children.

    • M. Pipe

      Loser! It’s OK to give POP to your kids occasionally !

    • tayronachan

      @Barn Cat, please reread the article, it said there was no marijuana in the guys system.

    • RickE.

      Well sure, everyone knows how good and healthy teeth-rotting, and gut- enhancing highly sugared drinks are for you!

  • The Pork

    Wow, seems like barn cat knows every thing & has all the answers! Hands up who wants to live in barn cats world? Oh yeah barn cat……..

  • Uh-huh

    i live in the area they are talking about and, as a rule, the Grayling cops are pretty cool and there are some serious drug problems in this county…so there might be more here that meets a not-actually-present eye. CPS here, on the other hand, are a bunch of totally incompetent idiots

  • M. Pipe

    Stupid ass brought a knife to a POLICE conflict? DUMB ASS!

  • barn cat said drugs are for losers lets start with beer drinkers thats a drug also,i thought the police is to serve and protect,i think they are going to start goose stepping next=thats what the nazis did for those who dont know their history

  • javelin

    let’s see…CPS determined that a child witnessing the father smoking pot was dangerous and potentially disturbing for the child……

    Then police come with CPS to take the child away from dad on -what turn out to be-unfounded suspicions; they create a dangerous standoff and then blow the little kids dad away in front of the child….

    Now what was it that child protective services was doing again? Protecting or establishing a lifetime of therapists, counseling and trauma re-lived?

    PS: the whole thing could have been a set-up by a vindictive mother who was going to lose custody in 3 days….this stinks to high heaven…

  • The LEOs have morphed from Law Enforcement Officers to Legally Excused Oppressors.

    • RickE.

      Carl, they have morphed from so-called “peace officers” into storm troopers that legally get away with murder.

  • Glacialhills

    We had almost the exact same thing happen to us two years ago except it was an “anonymous tip” that I was beating our two year old with belt. I have never even had a speeding ticket before cps showed up with one deputy at just after midnight demanding I bring my son to the door.I woke my wife yelling and tried to keep them from just barging in. I brought son out after about 10 minutes which he had no marks but they would not even look at him and said it was to late and they had a removal order from judge.Three days later in court I was painted out as aggressive and they had to call for backup and I was “lunging” and that I had argued for over an hour before they called and got the removal order, ALL LIES…guess what? We went right down to the sheriff’s dept. the next day after the removal and got the call log for this(they then tried to backpedal once they found out we had the official call log and said we had forged it) and they were at our house for just 22 minutes total from arrival to clearing 22 minutes!we estimated they were at our door for no more than 6 minutes before cps called for removal order from judge(actually only just a referee). CPS had lied to him about how long they were talking to me, and I was “aggressive and lunging” to get removal
    order.I never did any of that(our lawyer got cps worker changing her story three times in the telling at hearing).we did get our son back that friday 6 days later from guess who? the same person that we believe had called in the tip in the first place. I say believe(anonymous tip so will never be 100%)got him back with finger mark bruises on his legs, but otherwise ok.Good thing my wife was there to witness this or else I would have been “supplied” with a knife to lunge with also, and probably ended up like this poor man.

  • SKIP

    Remember that Alexander Solzhenitzin (sp) said that perhaps things would have been different in the Soviet Union if whenever the KGB showed up at a door the peasants had killed several of them with the pitchforks, cleavers and knives (guns had already been taken from them) and they didn’t know whether or not they would live through the day and get home safe to their own families. Therein lays the crux, the police and “officials” responsible seem to forget that they too are vulnerable to ruthless retribution by really pissed off parental citizens.

    • Cnsay

      I agree Skip. There’s three dead in a township that were on the receiving end of a homeowner’s ire and mini-14 after town officials condemned his property and were ordering him to vacate. Problem was, two of them I believe were innocent and only there to hear what was being discussed at the town meeting.

      • Pheota

        You WILL be judged by the company you keep. Those 2 “innocent” victims were there with the enemy and therefore were judged in kind. If you do not agree with the action being taken you should have been on the other side of the divide supporting the home owner. I am certain if things had gotten to the point of an order to vacate they were not there to discuss anything at a town meeting at his front door.

  • BubbaT

    Copes are basically criminals with a badge.

  • Did he really have a knife? If he was smoking “grass” why wasn’t it in his blood? Did the “officers” smell weed when they went to his house?
    Why would you attack anyone armed with a small “edged weapon”? Sounds like a BS story from the get go.

  • 1whoknows

    TRUE FACT: Cops carry “throw downs”, which are knives/guns that they can plant on or near a victim to justify their (the cops) murder of an innocent person. Then they malign the person they killed to make them look like the bad guy. I KNOW this because I worked for 2 different police departments.

    If that child’s mother wasn’t the “anonymous” tipster, I’m Mother Teresa. I hope that bitch’s conscience drives her infuckingsane. Assuming she has one.

    The asshole deputy is back at work like taking a life over BS was just all in a day’s work. Barney Fife motherfucker-I hope he never sleeps again. Chickenshits with no psych skills shouldn’t be in positions with the authority to kill, just because THEY get scared. If they are that afraid, they shouldn’t be cops in the first place.

    I hope ALL those bureaucratic tools get what they deserve, which is a sudden scary death.

    (An asshole cop in Phoenix shot and killed a man while he was standing there HOLDING his baby!) WTF is going on with these rogues? Crazy bastards are more fucked up than the people they are supposedly serving and protecting.

    That poor, poor child. Fatherless and fucked up forever over a LIE and excess testosterone.

    RIP, Dad.