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Shooting of Elkhart store gunman justified, prosecutor says

ELKHART, Ind. – Two northern Indiana police officers were justified in using deadly force against a gunman who had killed a grocery store employee and a shopper and was raising his gun toward the officers, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill Jr. said he won’t convene a grand jury to review the actions of Elkhart police Cpl. Jason Tripp and Cpl. Cody Skipper, saying they “acted reasonably in their conduct.”

The coroner was unable to determine whether Shawn Bair died from a shot to the heart by police or a self-inflicted head wound because they occurred nearly simultaneously, Hill said.

“Both the shot to his head and one of the rounds that penetrated his heart could have been the fatal shot,” he said.

Hill said state police didn’t find a motive for why Bair began shooting inside the store.

“A lot of the why died that night. We can’t really go into what is in the mind of someone who commits such a heinous act,” he said.

Hill said state police are still investigating whom Bair talked to on his cellphone shortly before the shootings began, saying that person could provide information about Bair’s state of mind.

“But it does appear that he did have some fixations with mass murder situations and some antisocial behavior,” Hill said.

Hill said Bair did have a suicide note on him, which contained short statements about some people he knew. Hill said one statement was about his mother and the support she gave him over the years and some people “he didn’t care about, he expressed what he thought about them.”

Authorities said store employee Krystle Dikes and shopper Rachelle Godfread had already been fatally shot and the store manager was on his knees in front of Bair and appeared to be praying when police entered the store that night, distracting the gunman momentarily. That gave the manager enough time to escape by running down an aisle.

Hill said the two officers spotted Bair at the end of an aisle and ordered him to drop his weapon. Bair instead began raising his gun toward the officers and they fired 10 shots, striking him eight or nine times, Hill said.

“That’s the conduct that I believe was appropriate under circumstances given the fact that they were confronted with an armed situation and notification that there was an active shooting in process,” Hill said.