Findings awaited of police inquiry in shooting

Saturday, March 9, 2002

Police officers deal with more disruptions of family harmony than the general public will ever know about or would even care to. It is an enormous, but delicate, task they must embrace.

Almost daily, there are conflicts that get out of hand, and then the police are expected to be sure everyone involved gets out of the fracas safely.

The all-too-many bloody instances of domestic violence in this newspaper over the past decade demonstrate what can happen otherwise.

In answering domestic-disturbance calls for help, police officers place themselves in harm's way in an effort to restore peace.

So the incident involving the Cleties Ford family of Cape Girardeau last week wasn't unusual in anything but its outcome.

The family and the police tell basically the same story except for a few key facts.

Cleties Allen Ford, 39, was having perhaps the worst day of his life. He was inside his home with firearms, liquor, a suicidal demeanor and four other people. His son's girlfriend, Sarah Hale, called the police with a plea for help.

State law prohibits the release of 911 tapes to the media or we might know right now what officers were expecting when they arrived. But we do know what actually was said in that call.

When police arrived at the Ford home, Cleties Ford stepped outside with a 12-pack of beer and two handguns. His son, Chris, locked the door behind him. Ford saw the police, panicked and tried to force his way back inside.

Patrolman Daniel "Ty" Metzger fired a single time with his shotgun, blowing a hole through the outside storm door and peppering an inside wall with pellets. Family members say the pellets hit dangerously close to Chris Ford.

So now things are in limbo. Cleties Ford is charged with one count of unlawful use of a weapon and domestic assault and awaits trial. Officers interviewed the entire Ford family on Thursday as part of an internal investigation into Metzger's actions. Metzger is back on the job and served as station commander on Friday.

When the investigation is complete, police will release their finding on whether Metzger's actions were appropriate or not. Lt. Carl Kinnison said the internal investigation won't be available to the public but could be, for the most part, part of the investigative record opened when the Ford case is settled.

But as long as those records remain a secret, the public will have to wonder why a shotgun blast through a door seemed the right way to handle an incident of domestic violence.

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