VAN WERT — A special grand jury convened in Van Wert on Thursday morning to hear facts surrounding the Sept. 3 shooting death of a Spencerville man at the hands of the Allen County SWAT team.
Special Prosecutor Joe Burkhard of Paulding County said the jurors heard nearly two hours of testimony and almost immediately determined that four members of the SWAT team acted appropriately and within the scope of their duties when they shot and killed Terry Pierce Jr. following a two-hour, multi-county chase last month. By 11 a.m. Thursday the proceedings had concluded, with no charges brought against the lawmen.
“We presented quite a bit of evidence,” Burkhard said. “Det. Brian Hannenkratt of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator, and he did a wonderful job of tracking down information. He left no stone unturned, and it was a very complete case that we presented.
“The grand jury did not indict anyone, and as far as I’m concerned, this ends the investigation.”
Pierce was shot and killed by SWAT team members in western Van Wert County after leading police on a chase that started near Spencerville the morning of Sept. 3 after he was found to be driving a stolen semi tractor cab.
Pierce spent more than an hour on the phone with dispatchers, deputies and police officers during the chase along U.S. 30, threatening to ram authorities and even a school bus with the stolen semi truck cab if they didn’t back away from the pursuit.
Over the course of 12 different, profanity-laced 911 calls, the man who called himself “Jim” and was later identified as Terry “Rusty” Pierce Jr., 46, repeated his demand that authorities back away from the truck. He refused to pull it over and never said where he wanted to go. He continued to threaten to drive into other vehicles, repeating he wasn’t “stupid” or a “dumb-dumb” throughout his calls.
During a conversation with Sgt. Kyle Miller, the acting chief of the Spencerville Police Department, he suggested he wanted to force officers to kill him.
“This is the route we’re taking. I will make every one of you shoot me dead, Kyle. That’s how tired of life I am, brother,” he said.
SWAT team members ultimately did just that.
Pierce died as the result of two gunshot wounds to the chest, according to a preliminary autopsy report from the Lucas County Coroner’s Office. The report revealed Pierce was shot by officers twice in the back and once in the left ankle. Small-caliber ammunition rounds were recovered, one from each side of Pierce’s chest, after piercing his lungs, the report says. One bullet passed through the man’s pulmonary artery.
Four members of the Allen County SWAT team were placed on paid administrative leave following Pierce’s death. Their names have not yet been made public.
Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia was not available for comment Thursday afternoon. His office earlier this week had scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday to discuss the grand jury’s decision. It was not made immediately clear on Thursday whether that event will go on as planned.