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Raleigh police confirm man killed by officer brandished BB gun

A man killed last week by a Raleigh police officer pointed a BB gun at the officer before the officer shot him, according to the preliminary findings of a Raleigh Police Department investigation into the incident.

Posted Updated

Amanda Lamb
, WRAL reporter, & Matthew Burns, WRAL.com senior producer/politics editor
RALEIGH, N.C. — A man killed last week by a Raleigh police officer pointed a BB gun at the officer before the officer shot him, according to the preliminary findings of a Raleigh Police Department investigation into the incident.

The so-called "five-day report" from Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to City Manager Ruffin Hall was released at about the same time Wednesday morning as reporters and others gathered at police headquarters to view video from Senior Officer W.B. Tapscott's body-worn camera.

The shooting occurred less than three minutes after police were notified by someone outside a Big Lots store that a man in a gold suit jacket had dropped a gun on the sidewalk outside the store and was acting suspiciously as he stuffed it back in his waistband and headed into the store.

By the time Tapscott arrived, police said in the report, Collins was walking on nearby Pleasant Valley Drive. When Tapscott tried to talk with Collins, Collins briefly raised his hands in the air before running off, prompting the officer to give chase, the report states.

During the pursuit, Collins reached into his waistband, and Tapscott slowed down, pulled out his firearm and ordered Collins to show his hands. Collins turned and "pointed a black handgun" at Tapscott, and the officer fired four shots at him, the report states.

When Collins was on the ground, Tapscott again told him to show his hands, and Collins again pointed the gun at Tapscott, who fired three more times, according to the report.

A gun was found at the scene of a Raleigh police shooting off Pleasant Valley Road on Jan. 30, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Delmas Cooper)

Collins tried to get up and again pointed the gun at Tapscott, who told him to stay on the ground and drop the weapon before firing four more shots, the report states. Collins then collapsed on the ground, and as other officers arrived at the scene, they kicked the gun away from Collins.

Investigators later determined the weapon was a BB gun, the report states.

Rick Armstrong, a former Raleigh police officer and the head of the local police union, said that it doesn't matter whether the gun was a BB gun or a handgun.

"You have to treat it as a real gun. If it looks like a real gun, it could be a deadly threat to you. So you have to treat it as a real gun," Armstrong said.

Activists, reporters watched body-cam video

Raleigh police tried to release video from Tapscott's body-cam publicly to show the encounter, but Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt blocked dissemination of the video after the family requested that it not show up on television or online.

"They've suffered a tremendous loss in the last week, and if you can imagine that, you have to be concerned that every time you pick up the phone or turn on the TV that you might see your loved one being killed," Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday.

Holt instead said police could show the video to the media and members of the public who wanted to see it, but no recordings of it would be made.

WRAL News reporter Amanda Lamb watched the three-minute video several times and said it was too hard to determine what Collins pulled from his waistband during the chase. Tapscott repeatedly told Collins to show his hands, get on the ground and drop his gun between the first volley of four shots and the next volley of three shots.

All of the shots were fired in a 24-second spane, and as he lay on the ground after the shooting stopped, Collins can be heard saying, "I'm listening, I'm listening."

After other officers arrive and they approach Collins, they order him not to move as they handcuff him. When they kick his gun away, he tells them, "It ain’t nothing but a BB gun."

Community activists who watched the video said Tapscott firing 11 times at Collins was excessive.

"It was too many shots. Once he was down, I think the shots should have stopped," said Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC.

"The excessive amount of shots after Mr. Collins is down is extremely disturbing," Kerwin Pittman said. "It seems like, after the initial shots, Mr. Collins was down, and I could not see him attempt to get back up. But I did see the officer continue to unload shots."

"After the first seven, when he was down, I believe the last four were excessive," said Rolanda Byrd, whose son, Akiel Denkins, was killed by Raleigh police four years ago.

Armstrong said police officers are taught to continue firing until a threat is eliminated.

"From what I witnessed, it looked like he was still a threat until [Tapscott] stopped firing," he said. "Even though the subject was still on the ground, it doesn’t mean the threat was eliminated. He still was a viable threat to the officer."

Some of the activists said that Collins running off and not obeying Tapscott's orders to stop and drop his gun escalated the situation.

"If he had listened to the commands and complied, it probably wouldn’t have ended up this way," Byrd said.

But Gerald Givens, president of the Raleigh-Apex chapter of the NAACP, said Collins had done nothing wrong when Tapscott stopped him and that Collins, who suffered from mental illness, likely was afraid of police.

"It’s an indictment on our society that we live in [that] people like Keith, who are mentally challenged, who’ve been picked on, who had to use a BB gun to help himself, to protect himself, somebody who may have been afraid of law enforcement, to take off and to run, and within three minutes, he’s no longer here," Givens said.

"You just wonder what could have been done differently," Powell said.

Tapscott has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of a State Bureau of Investigation review of the shooting. Raleigh police also are conducting an internal investigation to determine whether any policies or procedures were violated.


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