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Wake DA won't pursue charges against deputies who shot mentally ill man

Posted November 25, 2013

Jonathan Lee Cunningham (Photo courtesy of Josh Wilkerson)
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— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Monday that he does not intend to pursue criminal charges against two sheriff's deputies involved in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man earlier this year.

Jonathan Lee Cunningham, 35, was being transported by a deputy to a Winston-Salem psychiatric facility on March 31 when he got into a fight with the deputy, took off in his patrol car and led authorities on a chase on Interstates 40 and 540 in Raleigh.

Cunningham crashed and ran away on foot and, during another struggle with other deputies, was shot four times, including once at contact range, according to an autopsy.

Willoughby said there was no indication of illegal action during the encounter.

Cunningham had been sitting in the front of the deputy's cruiser and was not wearing handcuffs – a decision Harrison said was made at the deputy's discretion in such cases.

Since then, however, the sheriff's office has changed its policy and now requires passengers in such cases to be seated in the back and to be handcuffed if there is no caged barrier limiting contact with the deputy.

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  • boostfedcbra Nov 27, 2013

    What if the unarmed man was actually armed? what if he retrieved a weapon from the patrol car that he stole? or worse what if while fighting with deputies the unarmed man tried to take one of their guns?

    If that is the case then i think they were well within their rights! Bottom line is none of us know the complete story so we dont have any room to judge these officers actions!

  • Sherlock Nov 26, 2013

    Since then, however, the sheriff's office has changed its policy and now requires passengers in such cases to be seated in the back and to be handcuffed if there is no caged barrier limiting contact with the deputy. So it ok to put in the front even with handcuffs... an individual can still cause problems fro the driver... do not be so cheap put the cages in all the vehicles.

  • LetsBeFair Nov 26, 2013

    Maybe its time deputies don't carry firearms.

  • LawHelps Nov 26, 2013

    This is a tragic incisdent for both sides. When an officer feels in danger i.e suspect grabbing his firearm or has a weapon (knife,stick, pole, etc.) then that calls for deadly force. Although I beleueve the subject should have been cuffed or in the back, there is only one side of this story being told and its the media's.

    You folks tare me up. This is the same scenario as Zimmerman and y'all hated Zimmerman--now it's okay for the Cop. Seems to be a lot of folks killed in Police custody lately. Just Sayin'.
    -nailman5204

    They are not the same. Trayvon's wasnt a stand your ground law like everyone keeps saying. It was trialed under SELF DEFENSE!!!.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Nov 26, 2013

    I am too honest to be a police officer. I know how they play their shady semantics and collaborate with the district attorney's office to convict at any cost.

    I have a copy of an incident where the deputy falsified the citizen giving consent to search their home. Donnie Harrison said that there was no violation of policy for the deputy doing so. The deputy and other deputies who helped the deputy falsify the report all kept their jobs.

    That is why donnie is running for re-election his love of control of others and current disdain for constitutional rights of the accused (unless they work for his dept)

  • nailman5204 Nov 26, 2013

    You folks tare me up. This is the same scenario as Zimmerman and y'all hated Zimmerman--now it's okay for the Cop. Seems to be a lot of folks killed in Police custody lately. Just Sayin'.

  • winemaker81 Nov 26, 2013

    Everyone who is complaining about the police, calling them cowardly, asking why no taser, etc: You need a reality check.

    Get a job as a police officer. Spend a week doing that job, and then we'll see how much your attitude turns around, like 180 degrees.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Nov 26, 2013

    Not true. The internal affairs report will show the deputies actions as a policy failure. This way the sheriff can use the legal loophole of internal affairs known as policy failure to excuse the deputies actions thus sweeping it far under the rug and away from discovery by the public.

    Donnie will cowardly hide behind the district attorney to keep from having to make public any changes to dept policy because he lives by the rule if there is not a rule saying I can't it means I can.

    And that's how mentally I'll people get murdered by government employees and it gets good and covered up

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Nov 26, 2013

    "No officer wants to kill anyone, but in this case they were left no option"

    Hindsight, but a taser would have come in handy and could have prevented his death and having to deal with a conscience.

  • sctech Nov 26, 2013

    The sheriff's policy has ALWAYS been to handcuff any prisoner or mental health patient in the patrol car. This guy had previously tried to escape another officer and was a known flight risk.

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