SALEM TWP. (WWJ) – Authorities say the 18-year-old killed by a Michigan State Police trooper following a cross-county chase was trying to burn down a rival’s house.
Gabriel Stevenson, of Ypsilanti, died Tuesday morning after charging at officers with a knife outside of a home near Six Mile and Dixboro roads in Washtenaw County’s Salem Township.
Police say the situation leading to Stevenson’s death began in Wayne County’s Northville Township, where officers were investigating a series of arsons near Six Mile and Napier roads.
According to police, Stevenson reportedly had an altercation with another 18-year-old who lives in the 8600 block of Napier. Police believe the two had gotten into a fight last summer and in retaliation, Stevenson tried to set fire to his rival’s house.
Police believe Stevenson was in the neighborhood on Dec. 2 and set fire to the wrong house. Police think Stevenson returned to the area seven days later and tried again to set fire to his rival’s home, this time gaining entry and spilling gasoline in the entryway before authorities were called. In each instance, police said they weren’t told about the feud between the teens.
Officers on routine patrol around 2:20 a.m. Feb. 12 found Stevenson’s red pickup truck parked on Napier Road, the engine still warm, with a plastic bag covering the license plate. The officers went back to their patrol car, and that’s when they noticed a vehicle on fire in the driveway of Stevenson’s rival’s home.
After notifying the fire department, the officers found Stevenson’s truck traveling westbound on Six Mile Road. A traffic stop was initiated and upon being questioned, Stevenson told the officers he was in the area doing construction work. When the officers asked him to exit the vehicle, Stevenson began shooting at them before driving away.
A chase ensued for about eight miles until Stevenson lost control of his truck on the ice and slammed into a house. Police say Stevenson tried to get into the house by breaking a window, but was unsuccessful. As police moved in, Stevenson lunged at officers with a knife and was shot.
Northville Township police say they used rubber bullets four times before the fatal shot was fired. Stevenson was declared dead on the scene.
Police said three people were inside the home at the time of the crash, although no injuries were reported.
Michigan State Police say the trooper who fired his weapon has been placed on administrative leave while the incident remains under investigation, per department policy.