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Toledo officers in fatal shooting put on leave pending investigation


Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs speaks with reporters about a fatal shooting incident.

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The officer who shot and killed a Toledo man during a struggle today has been identified as 24-year-old Benjamin Cousino.

The officer and his partner, Jesuse Cordero, 36, have both been put on administrative leave as part of standard procedure, Toledo police Chief Derrick Diggs said at a news conference today. Both officers were appointed to the department on Nov. 15, 2011.

Chief Diggs gave the following account of the events that led up to the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Darrell James Parnell in the 1300 block of North Michigan Street.

Police were called to 1331 N. Michigan at 2:09 a.m. on a report of someone breaking into a car. At 2:22 a.m., Officers Cousino and Cordero reported seeing a suspect near a Jeep with a busted-out window.

The officers approached and the suspect resisted, fleeing on foot.

During the pursuit, Officer Cousino deployed his Taser twice, Chief Diggs said, but each shot was "ineffective."

Parnell ran westbound through a vacant lot on North Michigan where he and Officer Cousino were involved in "a violent struggle" where the officer was reportedly punched and bit.

Chief Diggs said the suspect, who was not armed, tried to grab the officer's gun at least three times. The officer took out his baton, but it was taken from him by the suspect, Chief Diggs said.

Chief Diggs said Parnell hit Officer Cousino in the head multiple times with the baton before Officer Cousino fired a single shot from his department-issued .40 caliber handgun.

Parnell was hit once in the chest; he was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Officer Cousino was treated at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and released.

An autopsy performed today by Lucas County Deputy Coroner Dr. Cynthia Beisser confirms that the suspect was shot once in the chest; she said there were no other signs of bruising or a struggle on Parnell's body.

She said there was one Taser barb stuck to Parnell's hooded sweatshirt, but it did not appear any of the barbs struck him.

When asked about the well-being of Officer Cousino, Chief Diggs described the morning as a "very traumatic experience," but said Officer Cousino was doing well.

When asked if Officer Cousino responded properly to the situation, Chief Diggs said, "Yes, absolutely."

Officer Cordero did not witness the shooting, because when the foot pursuit began, the officers went in separate directions in an attempt to stop the suspect. He told investigators he heard the gunshot.

Shantel Weathers, 22, a cousin of Parnell, said the family was notified of the fatal shooting at about 6 a.m. She said that, at this point, the family is waiting on answers to questions, but does not believe the shooting was justifiable.

"He wasn't armed, he had no gun," Ms. Weathers said. "Why not Tase him -- isn't that what they're for so they don't have to kill him?"

Parnell was supposed to be on electronic monitoring at the time he was shot, according to Lucas County Common Pleas Court records; Toledo police Capt. Wes Bombrys said he did not know if Parnell was on electronic monitoring.

In 2011, he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted felonious assault and was sentenced to five years of community control with six months spent at the Community Treatment Facility and then six months of electronic monitoring.

Police said that the suspect went into a carryout store at 518 Magnolia St. on June 3, 2011, and stole a beer. He was confronted by a clerk, and then Parnell put the beer down. Another employee, Keith Rasmussen, told Parnell he needed to leave the store, police said.

Parnell then attacked Mr. Rasmussen, fracturing his wrist, orbital socket, and caused "numerous" cerebral contusions, according to court documents. Mr. Rasmussen spent four days in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after the assault, Capt. Bombrys said.

Ms. Weathers said her cousin "wasn't a perfect kid," but was quiet and mostly kept to himself. She said he had a girlfriend he often visited in the same North Toledo neighborhood where he was shot and killed.

Antoinette Cobble, 33, said the victim's body was found near her back yard and that "there were police everywhere."

She said she didn't hear any commotion today -- no gunfire, not her dog barking -- but was woken by her niece at 3 a.m. who said police were on the side of their home.

Ms. Cobble said she went outside and saw a police officer standing near the side of her house; the officer could only tell Ms. Cobble there was a homicide.

She said she was in such a daze from being awakened that the word 'homicide' didn't register with her until she climbed back into bed.

When she walked out of her house at about 6:15 a.m. to leave for work, police were still on the scene; an officer had to lift up crime scene tape so she could leave, she said. Once at work, her family called and said her children and nieces, all who were at the North Toledo home overnight, were scared to be home alone.

"I came back," she said. "I can't leave my kids like that."

Ms. Cobble said that, although she loves the home she's lived in for 10 years, she's ready to move.

"I don't feel safe. I was scared when they broke into my house in January and now I'm terrified," she said. "That was the last straw for me."

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