As the family of a man who was killed May 22 in a police-involved shooting waits to be contacted by law enforcement, they were dismayed to hear that the officer involved is back on the streets.
“We still really don't know what happened that night,” said Melina Dominquez, the mother of Shaquille I. Kelly's four children. “We even had to hear from other people that the officer had gone back to work.”
Officer Christopher Hawthorne returned to work June 6 and “is working in the same capacity,” Sofia Rosales-Scatena, Fort Wayne Police Department public information officer, said in an email this week.
On Thursday, Rosales-Scatena explained the city's policy of placing officers on leave after they're involved in shootings.
“Officers receive at minimum 5 administrative days off. There is no 'normal' time off. Everyone handles these types of tragic situations differently. We allow our officers as much time off as needed for their mental well-being,” Rosales-Scatena wrote in the email.
“The minimum is 5 working days, not business days. However, per our policy and because our department cares for the welfare of our officers, every officer coming back to work after any type of traumatic event must meet with a psychologist. While he is very accommodating with appointments, sometimes we do have to wait,” she added.
According to information the police department released in late May, Hawthorne fired his gun during the early-morning shooting death of Kelly.
Police said a week after the shooting that a handgun was found near Kelly, who crashed his gold Chrysler sedan into a home on Oliver Street at Grier Street.
The Allen County coroner ruled that Kelly, the county's eighth homicide victim this year, died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Police said the gang unit chased Kelly after he refused to pull over in the 3900 block of Winter Street, where officers heard at least one shot around 2 a.m. and saw Kelly's vehicle in the area, police said.
Police are awaiting results from ballistic tests to see if a shell casing found where the initial shot was fired matches the gun found close to Kelly's body. Police are also waiting on ballistics tests to determine if the shot that killed Kelly was fired by Hawthorne.
The case was turned over to the Allen County Prosecutor's office after a joint investigation by Fort Wayne police and the Indiana State Police, according to an email Thursday from Ron Galaviz, Indiana State Police spokesman.
Meanwhile, Dominquez said she has been struggling financially since Kelly's death. She cannot tap into any death benefits because the coroner's office will not be able to release Kelly's death certificate until mid-August.
Christopher Meihls, deputy coroner, said Thursday that it normally takes about 10 weeks for an autopsy report to be finished and the coroner's office is backed up with work. Banking can be done with a pending death certificate “but that's it.” Life insurance or any other benefits are on hold, he added.
Dominquez said family members who might be able to help her watch her four children are already working. When Kelly was killed, she had just received a medical certificate for dental assisting, but now that he's gone, she can't work.
“I don't have child care. It's just been a mess,” Dominquez said. Neither she nor Kelly, who was a forklift operator, was the kind to live off the government.
“It's been super rough. My job is kind of on the line. I just feel like there should be assistance for people like us,” Dominquez said. “Anytime they (the children) see a police officer, they freak out. My son still wakes up crying for his dad.”
Kelly's sister, Kelitra Auxier, said she had contacted police, but police have “not reached out to the family,” Dominquez said.
Auxier said Fort Wayne police referred her to the Indiana State Police. She found out Hawthorne returned to service when her cousin was pulled over by him around 9:30 p.m. Sunday for alleged speeding. The traffic stop did not result in an arrest, she added.
Auxier, Dominquez and Willie Kelly, Kelly's father, are struggling with the information the police have released, particularly the statement that a gun was found near Kelly's body.
Dominquez called that “sketchy from the start. Like a week later they tried to say there was a gun in the area. I feel like they're trying to come up with their story.
“The details have been from us piecing it all together,” she added. “We're looking for someone to take responsibility. In any other case, the police contact the family. This has kind of just died out.”
“What was Hawthorne's statement? Why is he back on the road?” Auxier asked. Willie Kelly is asking the same questions, he said.
At least two emails sent by The Journal Gazette to Rosales-Scatena asking why the family has not been contacted have not been answered.