By Michael Gordon and Fred Clasen-Kelly The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Video released Friday of the fatal Feb. 2 police shooting of Charlie Shoupe shows the Charlotte man approaching the car of the officer who shot him with his right arm raised, holding a knife.
Officer Daniel Flynn backs his squad car away from Shoupe before exiting his vehicle, according to the video. Flynn can then be heard giving Shoupe, who had a history of mental problems, a series of commands.
“Get on the ground, I don’t want to f*****g shoot you,” Flynn yells, his gun raised.
At that instant, Flynn’s arms apparently block his body camera. A series of shots ring out.
Video from another officer responding to the scene at Shoupe’s apartment complex in west Charlotte shows Shoupe holding the knife and his arm still raised when Flynn fires the last of what sounded to be nine shots.
Shoupe falls slowly to the ground in a sitting position near the driver’s side door of Flynn’s car. As he is encircled by other officers, blood begins to pool around Shoupe’s red-and-black plaid pants. Soon, his legs jerk as police continued to order him to put down the knife. He eventually slumps to the ground.
A woman’s voice can be heard in the background, sobbing.
The entire standoff between Flynn and Shoupe lasts about 20 seconds.
Based in part on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Charlotte case, police are allowed to use deadly force if they or the public face an “objectively reasonable” threat of death or serious injury.
Phil Stinson, a police shooting expert at Bowling Green State University and a former law enforcement officer, said Flynn “clearly perceived a threat” and took the proper defensive maneuver of backing up his car “so that he could put some distance” between himself and Shoupe.
Stinson said the videos did not allow him to draw a conclusion on whether Shoupe posed an imminent threat.
“I can say that I saw no red flags that would suggest that the shooting was not legally justified,” Stinson said. “This is a tragic case, and these videos show the type of dangerous street encounters that officers often face in responding to calls for service involving either suicidal or mentally ill persons.”
Charlotte attorney Charles Monnett, who is representing Shoupe’s family, watched the videos for the first time on Friday and wondered if police had other options.
“My first impression is this: Why wasn’t this a situation where nonlethal force could be used? What’s the point of carrying a Taser if they are not going to be used?” Monnett said.
“We have to come up with a better way of dealing with mentally ill people besides killing them.”
Over the last three years, police across the country have shot and killed about 975 annually. Experts say half of the dead have some type of emotional problem.
CMPD has more than 600 police officers who are specially-trained as part of a “crisis intervention team,” or CIT, to handle suicide calls and other mental health-related emergencies.
Officers are taught non-physical de-escalation tactics to use during potentially violent situations.
CMPD told the Observer that CIT officers were on their way to Shoupe’s home.
Flynn, who had been with the department since 2006, arrived first. He has not gone through crisis intervention training, police say.
Two police visits
Shoupe’s family said the 27-year-old suffered from schizophrenia. His shooting brought a rapid close to his separate interactions with police on back-to-back days.
Authorities had been called to Shoupe’s apartment the day before by his mother. The mother told medical workers that Shoupe had not taken his medication and that he believed she was trying to kill him, according to CMPD.
In video of the incident, Shoupe calmly discusses his mental condition with police and medics in the breezeway of his apartment. They, in turn, try to persuade him to go with them to the hospital.
Shoupe says he doesn’t like the way his medicine makes him feel but repeatedly asks to be allowed to return to his apartment so he can watch TV.
“I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to go to the hospital,” he says at one point. “I wasn’t acting violent. There’s nothing wrong. I just wanted to be left alone. I told her to just leave me alone.”
The next day, the police came back. It marked the sixth time in five weeks officers had visited the apartment, according to CMPD.
The Charlotte Fire Department and Mecklenburg County MEDIC were first to respond to a 911 call that a man was trying to kill himself.
For several minutes before police arrived, firefighters and medics tried to talk Shoupe down. They later told CMPD that Shoupe wanted police to kill him.
The shooting videos were released Friday at the order of Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell. The Observer sought the video as a public interest. CMPD did not object to the release.
The Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office, however, opposed making the footage public, pending the conclusion of the shooting investigation.
“Our trial judges have a clear-eyed understanding that the prompt release of video of police-involved shootings is important because it gives the public firsthand knowledge of these unfortunate incidents,” said Observer attorney Jon Buchan.
©2018 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)