Training is key in correct use of deadly force, officers say
Posted May 8, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — The fatal shooting this week of a Raleigh man by Wake Forest police brings to 10 the number of people dead at the hands of Triangle and Cumberland County law enforcement since January 2013.
The officers who fired their weapons at David Johnson, 18, said he was armed with a handgun and refused to drop his weapon. They are on paid administrative leave while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the case.
The incident raises questions about the use of deadly force. WRAL News spoke with officers Friday who said they never want to use deadly force, but each law enforcement agency in North Carolina operates under the same general statute that allows them to use it if they feel like they have no other choice.
According to state law, an officer can use deadly force "to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force."
Often, officers have only seconds to assess a situation.
“You're having to key in on what the suspect is doing with the weapon, you're trying to challenge, you're trying to determination are they pointing the weapon at me and what do I do to stop the threat,” Durham Police Deputy Chief Larry Smith said.
That's where required training comes into play. The state mandates all officers undergo annual training, including when to use deadly force.
Wellington Scott, a retired lieutenant colonel with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, now works with the International Academy of Public Safety. He says how officers train is key.
“When you train, you want your officers to train under stress so they will fall back on that stress-related (training) and make good decisions,” he said.
Smith says shooting a suspect is always a last resort. But when an officer is forced to shoot, it's with the sole intention of stopping the threat.
“When our officers trained, they’re trained to shoot at the biggest body part, which is center mass,” he said. “We don't train to try and shoot at a leg or shoot at an arm. If we try to do that and miss, then we have a dead officer or a dead citizen.”
WRAL News tracked the deaths involving several area law enforcement agencies since January 2013. Figures include both officer-involved deaths and deaths of people in custody of law enforcement. Neither the Cary and Chapel Hill police departments nor the Orange County Sheriff's Office reported any in-custody or officer-involved deaths during that time period.
|DURHAM POLICE||2013||officer-involved||Jose Ocampo||A man who refused to drop a knife was shot and killed by a Durham police officer, according to a police spokesperson|
|DURHAM POLICE||2013||officer-involved||Derek Walker||A 26-year-old man who was shot to death by police in downtown Durham posted on his Facebook page before the fatal standoff that he was upset about a custody dispute over his son and that he hoped to die soon.|
|DURHAM POLICE||2013||in-custody||Jesus Huerta||A 17-year-old died while in the custody of a Durham police officer.|
|DURHAM CO SHERIFF||2013||in-custody||Terry Lee||A 21-year-old inmate died at the Durham County Detention Center, the sheriff's office said.|
|DURHAM CO SHERIFF||2013||in-custody||Timothy Burns||Died of illness while housed at Department Adult Corrections safekeeping|
|DURHAM CO SHERIFF||2013||in-custody||Scott Smith||Died of illness while housed at Department Adult Corrections safekeeping|
|RALEIGH POLICE||2013||in-custody||Thomas Sadler||Raleigh police officers trying to control a man behaving aggressively toward them used a Taser device multiple times to try to subdue him before he died, according to a preliminary internal police report.|
|WAKE CO SHERIFF||2013||in-custody||Jonathan Cunningham||A 35-year-old Durham man being transported to a Winston-Salem psychiatric facility was shot and killed after, authorities said, he stole a Wake County sheriff deputy's cruiser and led authorities on a chase on Interstates 40 and 540 in Raleigh.|
|WAKE CO SHERIFF||2013||officer-involved||Misty Mullins||A Wake County deputy fatally shot a woman after she charged at him and two other deputies with a knife, Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.|
|FAYETTEVILLE POLICE||2013||officer-involved||Nijza Hagans||A Fayetteville police officer shot and killed a man during a traffic stop.|
|FAYETTEVILLE POLICE||2013||officer-involved||Shaqur McNair||A Fayetteville police officer responding to a domestic disturbance call early Sunday evening shot and killed a teenager who allegedly displayed a handgun during a confrontation with the officer, the city's police chief said.|
|FAYETTEVILLE POLICE||2013||officer-involved||Lawrence Graham||A man shot by Fayetteville police during a traffic stop two months earlier has died, police said Wednesday.|
|FAYETTEVILLE POLICE||2014||officer-involved||Charles McBennett||The man who died in a police shootout after authorities said he shot a Fayetteville police officer suffered from mental illness, his family said Wednesday.|
|CUMBERLAND CO SHERIFF||2014||officer-involved||Andrew Michaelis||A man who exchanged gunfire with deputies after hitting four deputies. It wasn't clear if the deputies killed him or if he took his own life.|
|CUMBERLAND CO SHERIFF||2014||officer-involved||Brian Burch||Authorities say a man died following a shooting involving Cumberland County sheriff's deputies at a Sonic Drive-In.|
|DURHAM CO SHERIFF||2015||in-custody||Dennis McMurray||Died of acute fentanyl poisoning, which he ingested prior to incarceration, per medical examiners report.|