Use of deadly force in Vernon Hills police shooting deemed reasonable

  • A police officer acted "reasonably and appropriately" during an officer-involved shooting on Marimac Lane in Vernon Hills in September, authorities said Friday.

      A police officer acted "reasonably and appropriately" during an officer-involved shooting on Marimac Lane in Vernon Hills in September, authorities said Friday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/4/2019 7:00 PM

A veteran Vernon Hills police officer acted "reasonably and appropriately" during a police-involved shooting that resulted in the death of an intoxicated man armed with a replica-style air rifle, the Lake County state's attorney's office announced Friday.

The report, released to the media via email by State's Attorney Michael Nerheim, came about three months after Randy Rausch, 34, was shot to death Sept. 15 in his garage on Marimac Lane.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The rifle recovered at the scene was determined to be a Crosman Nitro Piston Powered .177-caliber air rifle with a 4x32-millimeter scope, authorities said. The Crosman replicates a fully functioning rifle, authorities said.

But officer Tadd Spencer had no idea the gun Rausch pointed at him was an air rifle, authorities said.

"I would like to commend the professionalism exhibited by Officer Tadd Spencer during these trying circumstances," Nerheim wrote in the report.

Spencer, a 22-year veteran of the department, was working an overnight shift when he was called to Rausch's house just before 2 a.m., the report reads. During previous contact with Rausch, the Vernon Hills man had twice threatened suicide but was never combative or threatening toward police, the report reads.

Spencer entered through a side garage door as instructed. Once inside, he found Rausch sitting on a folding chair in the middle of the garage with what appeared to be a black, metallic, high-powered rifle with a silencer on his lap, the report reads.

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"Mr. Rausch had his right hand on the rifle, the stock of the gun was resting on his thigh, and the barrel of the rifle was pointed at the ceiling," the report continues.

Spencer radioed that Rausch had a gun, then told Rausch multiple times to drop the rifle. Rausch asked Spencer, "What are you going to do?"

Spencer repeated his commands approximately 10 times, but Rausch never showed any signs he'd comply. Instead, Rausch "moved his right hand back and forth on his weapon and appeared very angry," the report reads.

Eventually, Rausch placed both hands on the rifle and, with a two-handed grip, lowered the barrel toward Spencer. Spencer couldn't retreat because the rifle rounds could penetrate the garage walls and the neighbors' houses, the report reads.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Officer Spencer believed that his life and others' lives were in mortal danger," the report reads. "Based on the circumstances, Officer Spencer believed that lethal force was the only recourse available to prevent the loss of innocent lives."

Spencer fired nine shots, forcing Rausch to drop the rifle, the report reads. Spencer radioed that shots were fired and called for an ambulance.

Officers arriving on scene after the shooting reported seeing Rausch slumped in his chair and the rifle at his feet.

He was pronounced dead at 2:12 a.m. as a result of the gunshot wounds, authorities said. A woman in the house was not injured.

An autopsy showed Rausch had a blood-alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit, Nerheim said. Numerous other narcotics were also discovered in his system.

The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force handled the investigation, and the findings were turned over to Nerheim.

"Based upon the facts gathered in this investigation and a review of the applicable Illinois Statutes, Officer Spencer acted reasonably and appropriately," the report reads. "Again, this event illustrates how a seemingly innocent police task can suddenly become a deadly confrontation."

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