A South Carolina prosecutor decided Tuesday not to charge two police officers in the shooting death of a black man who lunged at them with a broken piece of wood from a chair after relatives warned them the victim suffered from mental illness. .
Richland County deputies were justified in shooting Irvin Moorer Charley because he was a danger to officers and family members who called police at his 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” of lunging at the officers with the stick, 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 that the officer had at the time of the incident,” Gipson said.
The deputies are white. Gipson, the elected attorney for Richland County, is black.
Attorneys for Charley’s family did not respond to a text message 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 their fellow officers and that Gipson would review the findings.
Gipson said he had two professors who are experts on policing from the University of South Carolina also review the evidence, but did not include any of their comments or findings in his statement.
Agents were called to the home outside Columbia on March 19 by someone who said Charley was attacking her 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 scissors while saying, “Don’t shoot or anything. He doesn’t have a gun.”
Body camera footage showed First Officer John Anderson pointing his gun at Charley after he burst out of a house with a piece of wood that appeared to have a pointed end. He told the deputy “you can shoot me”. A second officer, Zachary Hentz, arrived at about the same time and shot Charley with a Taser, but he did not react.
Charley then charged at Hentz, who fired his gun seven times as he backed away, tripping over his back at about the same time Charley fell bleeding to the ground.
Initially, the sheriff’s department only released a 15-second clip of Charley walking toward the officer, saying the shooting itself “just isn’t something everyone needs to see.” They then released dash cam video showing the shooting from a distance, but when the family held a news conference suggesting deputies were hiding evidence, the sheriff’s department released the full 13 minutes of body camera footage.
The footage mainly showed officers performing CPR on a bloodied Charley as his head swayed uncontrollably from side to side 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 officers to come out here and kill them,” Lott said. “They have to protect themselves. And that is what this deputy did yesterday. He protected himself.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.