Mich. officer fatally shot during domestic

By Amber Hunt
Detroit Free Press
Read Officer Down: Officer Robert "Bobby" Kozminski
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - He lay in wait, watching out of his garage door for the police officers he knew were coming.

When he spotted one rounding the back of his house, he put a shotgun to a window of the garage and fired.
Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski, 29, was dead.

That's how the city's first killing of a police officer in 21 years happened this morning, police Chief Harry Dolan said during an afternoon news conference.

"The suspect ambushed Officer Kozminski," Dolan said.

Jeffrey VanVels, 45, was arrested at the home in northeast Grand Rapids shortly after the shooting. Officers had been responding to a call about a domestic dispute, Dolan said.

VanVels had threatened relatives in the home before one of them called 911 at about 1:40 a.m., police said.

VanVels' shotgun blast hit Kozminski in the head, Dolan said. As VanVels ran back into his house, another officer fired back but missed, he said.

VanVels is being held in the Kent County Jail on an open murder charge.

The last time a Grand Rapids officer was killed in the line of duty was in 1986, Mayor George Heartwell told the Free Press.

Another officer was shot three years ago, but he survived and returned to the force.

"My phone has been busy all day long today as people hear about it," Heartwell said Sunday evening. "It's sadness and frustration that this can happen in our city."

But, Heartwell said, it's also another homicide in a spate of violence in Michigan's second largest city. Most of that violence has been gang-related, he said. Grand Rapids has about 200,000 residents.

"They're getting guns and they're shooting and killing each other," Heartwell said. "In this case, it happened to be a domestic dispute that turned violent and deadly."

Dolan said Kozminski worked for the department for seven years. He's survived by a 3-year-old daughter, his parents and his siblings.

"He gave his life today to protect a family," Dolan said.

Heartwell told reporters that the shooting was an assault on the community.

"We live in a violent time in which people do unspeakable things and act in inhumane, even unhuman, ways," Heartwell said. "This single act of violence has touched us all."

But, he added, the city is banding together.

"We are a people of hope," he said. "We will not be deterred by this single act, this single violent act, of one person."

Copyright 2007 The Detroit Free Press

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