By JEFFREY COLLINS – Associated Press
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — A South Carolina prosecutor decided Tuesday not to charge two police officers in the fatal shooting of a black man who lunged at them with a broken piece of wood from a chair after family members warned them that the victim was mentally ill.
Richland County deputies were justified in shooting Irvin Moorer Charley because he posed a danger to officers and family members who called police at their home, initially telling them Charley was armed with a knife , attorney Byron Gipson said in a statement.
Gipson called the shooting “reasonably necessary” based on Charley’s “unfortunate response” to lunging at the officers with the baton, which they thought was a sharpened stake.
“The use of force was applied in good faith based on the perceptions of a reasonably trained officer and the objectively reasonable facts available to the officer at the time of the incident,” Gipson said.
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The deputies are white. Gipson, the elected Richland County prosecutor, is black.
Lawyers for Charley’s family said in a text message Tuesday that the family would hold a press conference later to respond to Gipson’s decision.
The family was upset because the Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting by its own deputies. Sheriff Leon Lott said his investigators had the expertise and temperament to fairly investigate their fellow officers and that Gipson would review the findings.
Gipson said he also asked two expert police professors from the University of South Carolina to review the evidence, but he did not include any of their comments or conclusions in his statement.
Deputies were called to the house outside Columbia on March 19 by someone who said Charley was attacking his mother. Body camera video showed Charley’s brother telling the arriving first officer that Charley was mentally ill and had a knife, which he quickly corrected to a scissor, saying “don’t shoot or nothing. He doesn’t has no weapon.”
Body camera footage showed First Deputy John Anderson pointing his gun at Charley after he suddenly emerged from a house with a piece of wood with what appeared to have a sharp end. He told the deputy “you can all shoot me”. A second deputy, Zachary Hentz, arrived around the same time and tasered Charley, but there was no reaction.
Charley then charged Hentz, who backpedaled his gun seven times, stumbling on his back around the same time Charley fell bleeding to the ground.
The Sheriff’s Department initially only released a 15-second clip with Charley walking towards the deputy, saying the shooting itself was “just not something everyone needs to see.” They later released the dash cam video that showed the shooting from a distance, but when the family held a press conference suggesting the deputies were hiding evidence, the sheriff’s department released the full 13 minutes of body camera footage.
The footage mainly showed the deputies doing CPR on a bloody Charley as his head swayed uncontrollably back and forth 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 deputies to come out here and be killed,” Lott said. “They need to protect themselves. And that’s what this MP did yesterday. He protected himself.”
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