Raleigh police officer cleared in fatal shooting of man who had BB gun
Posted August 27, 2020 3:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2020 7:19 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Thursday that a Raleigh police officer was justified in shooting and killing a mentally disabled man who ran from the officer last winter but then pulled out a gun.
Keith Dutree Collins, 52, was shot multiple times on Jan. 30 after Senior Officer W.B. Tapscott responded to a report of man with a gun at a shopping center off Glenwood Avenue.
"It's a tragedy what happened to Mr. Collins, but there's no grounds to move forward with criminal charges," Freeman said.
A preliminary investigation by Raleigh police determined that Collins ran from Tapscott along Pleasant Valley Drive and then pulled a gun from his waistband. Tapscott first fired four shots, and then three more when Collins, now on the ground, again pointed the gun at the officer, according to a police report.
Tapscott, taking cover behind a utility pole, fired four final shots at Collins as he tried to get up from the ground, the report states.
The gun found near Collins at the shooting scene turned out to be a BB gun.
"In slowing down the body cam video, it is possible to see Mr. Collins turn and point what appears to be a gun in Officer Tapscott’s direction prior to Officer Tapscott firing at Mr. Collins," Freeman wrote in a four-page report. "This video also shows Mr. Collins raising back up after he is on the ground and again pointing an object in the direction of Officer Tapscott, who fires several more times."
She said Thursday that the gun "looked very much like a real handgun."
Six of the 11 shots hit Collins, Freeman noted in her report, citing the autopsy report – four in his legs, one in his abdomen and one in his chest.
"North Carolina [law] provides that an officer may use deadly force to defend himself from what he reasonably believes to be the imminent use of deadly physical force," Freeman wrote. "Based on all the evidence available, it is the conclusion of the District Attorney that Officer Tapscott reasonably believed that his life was endangered when he shot Mr. Collins and that therefore the use of force was lawful."
The shooting occurred less than a half-mile from the apartment where Collins lived with his mother and stepfather, Gloria and Frederick Mayo. Collins was mentally and physically disabled, they said.
Collins had just purchased the gun at Walmart, his mother said in February, noting that he had a fascination with being a security guard. But she said at the time that he would never have confronted a police officer.
"He's petrified of the police," Gloria Mayo said. "He had disabilities, he had challenges and he loved everybody. There's nobody that did not like Keith."
Collins' family declined to discuss Freeman's decision on Thursday, but their attorneys released a statement saying that they believe Tapscott violated Collins' civil rights and should have tried to de-escalate the situation before opening fire.
Gloria Mayo has participated in local protests in her son's honor in recent months, and a flier for a Friday night protest in downtown Raleigh references Collins as one of the people demonstrators are fighting for.
"Keith and many others, they need justice," Gloria Mayo said in June. "Somebody has to be their voices now because they can't speak for themselves. So we have to speak for them."
Freeman said her decision must be based on the facts and the law, not public sentiment.
"We understand that people have a reason to be angry right now and a reason to want change, and what we ask is that people find constructive, peaceful ways to do that," she said.
Tapscott has been on administrative leave since the shooting. Even though the State Bureau of Investigation review of the incident is over, the Raleigh Police Department is still conducting an internal investigation to determine whether any policies or procedures were violated.