A South Carolina prosecutor on Tuesday decided not to charge two police officers in the fatal shooting of a black man who attacked them with a broken piece of wood from a chair after family members warned them the victim was mentally ill.
Richland County deputies were justified in shooting Irvin Moorer Charley because he was a danger to officers and family members who called police to his home, initially saying that Charley was armed with a knife, Attorney Byron Gipson said in a statement. .
Gipson called the shot “reasonably necessary” based on Charley’s “unfortunate response” to attacking officers with the baton, which they thought was a sharp stake.
“The use of force was applied in good faith based on the perceptions of a reasonably trained officer and the objectively reasonable facts the officer had at the time of the incident,” Gipson said.
The deputies are white. Gipson, the district attorney for Richland County, is black.
Lawyers for Charley’s family did not respond to a text message on Tuesday.
The family was unhappy that the Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting by their own deputies. Sheriff Leon Lott said his investigators had the experience and temperament to fairly investigate his fellow officers and Gipson would review the findings.
Gipson said two law enforcement professors at the University of South Carolina also reviewed the evidence, but did not include any of their comments or findings in their statement.
Officers 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 first officer to arrive that Charley was mentally ill and had a knife, which he quickly corrected to scissors as he said, “don’t shoot or anything. He has no gun.”
Body camera footage showed the first officer, John Anderson, pointing his gun at Charley after he suddenly came out of a house with a piece of wood with what appeared to be a sharp point. He told the deputy “you can shoot me”. A second officer, Zachary Hentz, arrived at the same time and shot Charley with a Taser, but he had no reaction.
Charley then attacked Hentz, who fired seven times as he retreated, stumbling onto his back just as Charley fell bleeding to the ground.
The sheriff’s department initially released just a 15-second clip of Charley walking towards the deputy, saying the shooting itself was “not something everyone needs to see”. They then released the dashboard camera video that showed the shooting from a distance, but when the family held a press conference suggesting officers were hiding evidence, the sheriff’s department released the full 13 minutes of body camera footage.
The footage primarily showed the officers performing CPR on a bloodied Charley as his head swung 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 get killed,” Lott said. “They have to protect themselves. And that’s what this deputy did yesterday. He protected himself.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.