Charlotte Observer - District Attorney: CMPD
Fri August 24, 2012
Charlotte Observer - District Attorney: CMPD Officer Acted Lawfully In Fatal Shooting
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who shot and killed 28-year-old Michael Deangelo Laney during a struggle to arrest him in July will not be prosecuted.
Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray wrote in a letter Monday to the police chief that the use of deadly force by Officer A.J. Holzhauer was justified.
"There is no evidence that Officer Holzhauer acted unlawfully," Murray's letter to Police Chief Rodney Monroe said.
Laney, who was suspected of an attempted armed robbery and shooting in June, was shot in the head during a struggle with police outside his home in northwest Charlotte.
The July 2 killing triggered tensions in the Biddleville neighborhood. At the time, Laney's relatives said police overreacted. "They killed him for no reason," said Tiny Laney, the dead man's mother.
Murray's letter outlined what police say happened on the night Laney was shot to death.
Police had been on the lookout for a man suspected of an attempted robbery and shooting along Beatties Ford Road on June 25.
When the man failed to produce money as demanded, the suspect shot him in the back with a .410 gauge shotgun. The suspect got away on a red scooter.
On the night of July 2, Officer Ryan Shields spotted a man whom he believed might be the suspect riding a red moped near Five Points Park. Shields turned on his blue lights and siren and tried to stop the moped operator.
The moped driver didn't stop and ran multiple stop signs and red lights, Murray's letter said. After a brief pursuit, the suspect pulled into the yard at 2317 Crestview Drive and jumped off the moped.
Shields ran from his car and tackled the suspect, Murray wrote. After a brief struggle, the suspect got away and ran toward the house. Officer Holzhauer tried to help with the arrest.
The scuffle and the gun
The officers could be heard on Holzhauer's portable microphone as they tried to subdue the suspect, Murray's letter said.
"Officer Shields was struggling with the suspect and was yelling to Officer Holzhauer, 'He's got something in his waistband,' " Murray wrote. "Shields yelled to Holzhauer at least three times 'He's got a gun.' "
Shields told detectives that he saw a gun and could feel it in the suspect's hand, Murray wrote.
"Officer Shields told the investigating detectives he was in fear for his and Holzhauer's lives and believed deadly force was necessary," Murray's letter said.
"After it was clear that neither he nor Shields were able to control the suspect's hands, Officer Holzhauer heard his partner yell for him to shoot the suspect. It was at that point that Officer Holzhauer fired one shot from his duty weapon killing the suspect."
The total time elapsed from the moment Shields first had physical contact with the suspect until the fatal shot was fired was 26 seconds, according to the DA.
"The suspect was in fact armed with a loaded (and stolen) .380 caliber Keltec handgun," Murray wrote.
Witnesses' stories matched
Shields and Holzhauer were interviewed separately at the police department. Murray said their recorded interviews were consistent with each other and consistent with what could be heard on the audio tape.
Their statements, Murray wrote, were also consistent with the statement of Sara Ramey, the suspect's girlfriend "who heard the officers yelling to the suspect to stop resisting and heard Officer Shields yell, 'he's pulling something out of his pocket.' "
Ramey said she heard the officers tell the suspect to "get down" and said the suspect was fighting and resisting, Murray's letter said.
Murray's letter noted that after suspect's death, the victim in the June robbery attempt positively identified Michael Laney as the man who tried to rob him and shot him.
"The consistent, believable evidence is that the suspect aggressively resisted apprehension and reached for a loaded handgun while fighting the officers," Murray wrote. "Therefore, the use of deadly force was justified under North Carolina law. This Office will not pursue criminal charges against either officer."
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