DA disputes Kenly officer's version of fatal stun gun incident
Posted September 8, 2016 10:06 a.m. EDT
Updated September 8, 2016 6:17 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle on Thursday contradicted details of a fatal stun gun incident provided by a Kenly police officer.
Alexander Warren Thompson, 37, of Princeton, died days after Officer Jesse Craig Santifort zapped him with a stun gun at the end of a two-county chase on March 3.
The chase started on U.S. Highway 301 near Lucama and reached speeds of 100 mph as it continued into Johnston County. It ended when Thompson's pickup crashed into a fire hydrant near the intersection of Country Store Road and U.S. Highway 70, between Pine Level and Princeton.
Santifort said Thompson then rushed at him and disregarded his commands to stop, so he used his stun gun.
"We are electrified at the moment, but I think we've come to an understanding," Santifort told a dispatcher after the incident. "If you could tell EMS to step on it to our location, he appears to be unresponsive."
Doyle said Thompson was shocked four times for a total of 37 seconds.
An autopsy determined that Thompson had an enlarged heart and had drugs in his system, but it was the shocks from the stun gun that killed him.
"He was not dying until the Taser occurred," Doyle said. "(The medical examiner) said that, in his opinion, he would not have died but for the tasing."
Witnesses told investigators that Thompson was in his truck with his hands up when Santifort zapped him, Doyle said. So, he was indicted this week on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Doyle also said Santifort has offered inconsistent statements about the incident, first saying Thompson ran at him and later that he lunged at him.
"They describe he had nothing in his hands and that they saw his palms completely open," she said of the witnesses. "They never saw the guy in the truck attempt to get out or attempt to lunge forward."
Santifort, 30, who is on unpaid leave, surrendered to authorities Thursday shortly before his court hearing.
Doyle said she had to dismiss a number of cases in which Santifort was the investigating officer because she believes he is no longer a credible witness.
Santifort "continues to be a danger to the public" because he still is employed by the Kenly Police Department, she said, adding that she thought he would be fired after he was charged.
Although he's not a flight risk, she argued for a higher bond, noting the $20,000 unsecured bond he was given is too low for the felony offense he faces.
The judge didn't increase the bond.
"This occurred months ago now, and there's been no additional incidents of violence and anger or any questionable behavior that we've been made aware of that have occurred since this time," defense attorney Walter Webster said.
Both Santifort and Thompson's family declined to comment Thursday.