COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — A South Carolina prosecutor Tuesday decided not to charge two police officers in the fatal shooting of a black man who lunged at them from a chair with a broken piece of wood after family members warned them that the victim was mentally ill.
Richland County deputies were authorized to shoot Irvin Moorer Charley because he posed a danger to officers and family members, who called police to his home and initially told them Charley was armed with a knife, attorney Byron Gipson said in an explanation.
Gipson called the shooting “quite necessary” based on Charley’s “unfortunate reaction” to lunge at the officers with what they believed to be a sharpened stake.
“The use of force was made in good faith based on the perceptions of a suitably trained officer and objectively reasonable facts available to the officer at the time of the incident,” said Gipson.
The deputies are white. Gipson, the DA for Richland County, is black.
Lawyers for Charley’s family did not respond to a text message Tuesday.
The family was unhappy because the Richland County Sheriff’s Department was investigating the shooting through their own deputies. Sheriff Leon Lott said his investigators had the expertise and temperament to fairly investigate their colleagues and that Gipson will review the findings.
Gipson said he hired two police experts from the University of South Carolina to also review the evidence, but he didn’t include any of their comments or insights in his statement.
Deputies were called to the home outside of Columbia on March 19 by someone who said Charley was attacking his mother. Body camera video showed Charley’s brother telling the first officer to arrive that Charley was insane and had a knife which he quickly converted to scissors while saying, “Don’t shoot or nothing. He has no gun.”
Body camera footage showed first deputy, John Anderson, pointing his gun at Charley after he suddenly emerged from a house with what appeared to be a sharp-ended piece of wood. He told the deputy, “You can all shoot me.” A second deputy, Zachary Hentz, arrived at about the same time and tasered Charley, but he didn’t respond.
Charley then charged Hentz, who fired his gun seven times as he backed down and stumbled onto his back around the same time as Charley fell to the ground, bleeding.
The sheriff’s department initially only released a 15-second clip of Charley approaching the deputy and saying the shooting itself was “just not something that everyone needs to see.” They then released the dashboard camera video showing the shooting from a distance, but when the family held a press conference in which they suggested that the deputies were hiding evidence, the sheriff’s department released the full 13 minutes of body camera footage .
The footage mainly showed the MPs performing CPR on a bloodied Charley, his head bobbing uncontrollably with each chest compression.
The day after the shooting, the sheriff said he thought his deputies did the right thing.
“We can’t expect these MPs to go out here and get killed,” Lott said. “You have to protect yourself. And that’s what this MP did yesterday. He protected himself.”
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