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Deters on Kim Shooting: This Wasn't Suicide By Cop

Tana Weingartner
Interim Chief Eliot Isaac and Prosecutor Joe Deters watch an edited version of the dash cam video.

“This is not suicide by cop. It just isn’t.”

That’s the decision from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters on the June shooting death of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim by Trepierre Hummons. Deters says Hummons called 911 to lure police to his location and then began shooting.

After Kim was shot and killed next to his cruiser, Hummons was shot and killed by a second police officer who had arrived on the scene, Specialist Thomas Sandmann. 

“I believe the motivation was, his goal was, to lure and to kill as many police officers as he could,” says Deters. “If not for the actions of Specialist Tom Sandmann, there could’ve been a lot more dead police officers. He deserves a medal.”

Officer Sonny Kim was shot three times. Deters says one of the bullets managed to get through a gap in the ribbing in Kim’s body armor and struck Kim’s pulmonary artery. 

Immediately following the incident, then-Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell told media he believed it was suicide by cop, where an individual who wants to die deliberately provokes a police officer to kill him or her. 

Deters, on Wednesday, released Sandmann’s dash cam video saying the investigation into the incident is complete and that he believes the video is now a public record. However, he still argues state legislators and the Ohio Supreme Court need to set a precedent on police camera videos.

Kim’s family had asked the video not be released. Deters says he met with them last week to let them know the release was coming. He also asked media at the Wednesday news conference not to air the video without blurring or somehow editing out Kim’s body.

“This is not a threat, but I’m not going to forget who airs it,” Deters says. 

Deters says Kim’s dash cam was not turned on so there is no video from his vehicle.

Both Deters and Interim Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac say all officers involved in the incident followed their training.

Hummons’ Motivation

“This was an attempt at mass murder,” says Deters. “He was going to kill as many cops as he could.” He went on to say, “(Hummons) was a convicted felon, at least as a juvenile, …of robbery. Not much of a record.”

He also had no evidence of mental illness.

According to the prosecutor, Hummons may have been distraught about being accused of rape the day before by his girlfriend. According to his mother, Deters says, Hummons didn’t want to be known as a registered sex offender his whole life. The morning after the girlfriend filed the complaint, Hummons’ mother reported he was acting strange.

In the video, Hummons' mother, who had been out walking the dog, is shown trying to help or comfort a prone Officer Kim after he'd been shot. Says Deters, "She seems to be a pretty good lady... with a very bad son."

Hummons’ autopsy found alcohol and a Valium-like substance in his system.

Deters and Isaac on Kim

Credit Provided / City of Cincinnati
Officer Sonny Kim

“Sonny was everything Hummons was not,” says Deters. "He was a loving father, a loving husband. He dedicated his life to this city. And ultimately, he paid the ultimate price to protect us.”

Isaac says this is a difficult time for the police department. He says he knew and had worked with Kim.

“We have the best trained officers in the county," Isaac says. "Our officers are professional and they’re vigilant. They recognize that at times these things do happen and they respond in the appropriate fashion.”

Asked how he feels when watching the video, Isacc says, “It’s a tragedy. That’s my friend lying on the ground. Someone that I worked with, so it strikes a chord with me.”

He also asked media to think about the family when considering whether to release the video.

WVXU has reviewed the dash cam video. Out of respect to the Kim family, WVXU has decided not to share it on our website.