Niles man convicted for shooting MSP trooper

Published 12:45 pm Friday, May 13, 2022

NILES — A four day jury trial in Berrien County Trial Court concluded Friday with a Niles man convicted of a lesser crime in connection with the Oct. 6 shooting involving a Michigan State Trooper.

Isaac Ntabaazi, 24, of Niles, had faced a charge of assault with intent to murder State Trooper Jason DeVries but was convicted of careless/reckless discharge of a firearm causing death or serious injury. DeVries was shot once in the thigh and is paralyzed from the right knee down. DeVries shot Ntabaazi twice resulting in him losing his eyesight.

The assault with intent to murder charge carried a maximum penalty of life or any term of years. The careless/reckless discharge charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

The jury of nine women and three men took just over three hours to deliberate over two days. Deliberations began Thursday afternoon and continued Friday morning after jurors requested another viewing of dashcam videos of the incident.

Jurors also found Ntabaazi guilty of six other counts: three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, one count of being a felon in the possession of a firearm, one count of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of resisting and obstructing police causing serious bodily impairment.

Ntabaazi will be sentenced June 20 by Berrien County Trial Judge Sterling Schrock who presided over the trial. The defendant remains in jail with his bond revoked.

Besides the two year misdemeanor sentence on the careless/reckless discharge count, Ntabaazi faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison on the resisting police causing serious bodily impairment count, five years each on the felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon counts and two years on each of the felony firearm counts.

The sentences for the felony firearm counts will be served consecutive to what he gets on the remaining counts. The resisting and obstructing police causing serious bodily impairment can also be sentenced consecutively.

Defense attorney Scott Sanford said that while he never likes to lose a case, this outcome was as much as he could hope for given the facts of the case. He noted that the jury found that Ntabaazi did not have the intent to kill or injure the trooper.

Ntabaazi was the last person to take the stand and the only defense witness. He testified Thursday morning that he was scared and panicky the night of the incident and did not intend to kill or injure DeVries. He maintained that the discharge of his weapon, a 9 millimeter semi-automatic gun, was accidental.

Five people testified for the prosecution, starting with DeVries recounting the events of that night Tuesday afternoon. He testified that he pulled over the car in which Ntabaazi was a passenger on Ninth Street near East Main Street on Oct. 6 for a traffic violation. He detained the driver and then went to get Ntabaazi out of the car.

Over the course of 13 seconds, he and Ntabaazi struggled, he was shot once and he shot Ntabaazi twice in the head. Both were taken to the hospital with Ntabaazi suffering blindness and DeVries a likely state police trooper career ending injury to his right thigh.

Four others from the Michigan State Police testified Wednesday. Troopers John Haas and Samuel Whittaker testified to what they saw when they arrived on scene, Det./Sgt. Jacquelyn Stasiak from the Grand Rapids 6th District headquarters oversaw the investigation, and crime scene investigator Det./Sgt. Russell Karsten analyzed evidence from the scene.