DA: N.C. officers' UOF 'lawful' in shootout with 15-year-old suspect

Evidence shows the teen fired at officers first after shooting six people, fatally wounding five; the suspect later died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound

By Aaron Sánchez-Guerra
The News & Observer 

RALEIGH, N.C. — Law enforcement’s use of force during the Raleigh mass shooting in October was “lawful” due to the circumstances and after evidence shows the 15-year-old suspect fired at officers first, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Monday.

Freeman released a statement directing the State Bureau of Investigation to end its criminal investigation into officers’ uses of force on Oct. 13 during a three-hour standoff with Austin Thompson, the suspect. The standoff came after Thompson had shot six people in the Hedingham neighborhood, killing five of them.

Thompson was injured in the standoff, and Freeman revealed for the first time that Thompson’s injury was self-inflicted. Authorities previously have not disclosed how Thompson was injured during his capture or the nature of his injuries.

Freeman said Monday that “a thorough review of evidence” doesn’t support that any of the rounds fired by multiple law enforcement officers, including Raleigh Police, struck Thompson.

A court order was obtained to request Thompson’s medical records, Freeman said. She said more information will be shared if the records reveal a different conclusion, but they do not interfere with her ruling on the use of force.

“At the time law enforcement responded to the scene of the mass violence incident and began their search for the juvenile subject, they were aware that multiple individuals had been killed and that the assailant was still at large,” Freeman wrote.

Lengthy standoff

After Thompson’s shooting rampage in northeast Raleigh, he barricaded himself in a barn-like structure near McConnell Oliver Drive, about a mile from the Hedingham subdivision.

Raleigh police fired at least 23 rounds when they encountered Thompson, according to a five-day report released by the City of Raleigh in October.

Following the shootout, officers contained Thompson inside the shed he fired from and repeated commands for him to come out with his hands up and to surrender his weapons, The News & Observer reported previously.

His capture came after he shot a police officer in the knee during the standoff. He ultimately was taken into custody from a shed with the use of a tactical robot. The city’s five-day report say Thompson was found with a handgun, a shotgun, ammunition and a hunting knife.

The initial request for the use-of-force criminal investigation by the NCSBI is standard procedure when law enforcement uses deadly force against someone.

“During efforts to take the juvenile into custody, law enforcement utilized deadly force only in response to deadly force being used,” Freeman said in a statement. “State law provides for the use of deadly force by law enforcement under these circumstances. No further investigation into the use of force is required at this time.”

Raleigh Police Sgt. K.M Smithey and Officer D.M. Garner were placed on administrative paid leave after the shooting, which is standard procedure. Officer Casey Clark, who was shot, has been recovering from his injuries, the police department said Dec. 1.

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