By Judy Reed
The Kent County Sheriff Department and the family of Jonathan David Sper released a joint statement Thursday detailing some of the events that led to Jonathan’s death on Tuesday evening, January 24.
According to the statement, he had been diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder, and had been trying to rehabilitate himself for the last 10 years.
“We know that Jonathan is in a better place–a place where he no longer has to wrestle with mental illness,” said his family. “Even while dealing with this disorder, he was a great friend to many people. He was a dreamer, full of life, and had a fierce entrepreneurial spirit.”
Jonathan had been in jail for six days, on charges of ordering food and not paying for it, and not identifying himself to a police officer. Records at 61st District Court show his appearances before the judge were canceled several times due to being uncooperative. He finally was sentenced to the six days time served and released on Tuesday, January 24, just hours before the shooting.
Sper was reportedly dropped off in a manic state at his brother’s home in the 4000 block of Summit Ct, in Algoma Township, about 5 p.m. According to the statement, this is what happened next: “His brother did his best to confine Jonathan and to deescalate the situation with the intent of peacefully removing him from the property. After two hours, and a brief physical altercation, it was obvious that the brother needed assistance from law enforcement, at which point he called 911. The 911 operator was informed of Jonathan’s manic state. When the police arrived, the two brothers were already separated. The officers were again informed of Jonathan’s manic state from his brother. Jonathan was in the garage when the two officers arrived. Upon approaching Jonathan, the officers issued orders that were not followed. A struggle between the officers and Jonathan ensued which ended in Jonathan’s death.”
The Wyoming Police Department is investigating the shooting. It is standard procedure to call in another police department when an officer is involved in a shooting death. They have not released the name of the officer who fired the shots.
The Spers also asked for people to remember the officers involved. “In addition to the thoughts and prayers going out to our family, please keep in mind the officers who were involved in this tragic event. While serving our community and risking their lives every day, members of law enforcement must confront mental illness in its worst form. Although there are already tremendous efforts in this community to provide resources for the mentally ill, the Office of the Sheriff and the Sper family have a desire to advocate for continued improvement in how mentally ill people are handled by the criminal justice system and by community mental health providers so that this tragedy is not repeated. Through this advocacy, we hope to achieve a safer community for everyone, with a safety net for those living with mental illness, enabling them to live their lives in peace.”
The family will hold a memorial service at Ada Bible Church on Knapp St., Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, so they can continue to support hundreds of thousands of families, advocate for better resources and tools for mental health providers, and lead awareness activities and events to encourage understanding and prevent situations like this from occurring in the future. A memorial fundraiser has been created for Jonathan Sper and can be found on NAMI’s website http://ifundraise.nami.org/campaign/sper.