Durham District Attorney Roger Echols says an investigation by his office found no probable cause for criminal charges against three officers involved in the shooting death of Kenneth Bailey Jr.
Echols' announcement comes more than seven months after Bailey was shot and killed in the Club Boulevard neighborhood. Officers, tracking Bailey via an ankle monitor, had gone to the neighborhood to arrest Bailey for missing a curfew he had to adhere to while awaiting trial for a robbery charge his family said he planned to challenge. He was shot while fleeing officers
, who said he pointed a gun at them
"Each officer stated that they were in fear of their own life and the lives of their fellow officers," Echols said in a press release. "The evidence supports the officers' belief of being in fear. If a person pulls a firearm, even if they are in flight, firing that weapon in any direction is potentially only a fraction of a second away. Therefore, the officers' reasonable fear of death and or great bodily injury was also imminent."
Echols' nine-page news release includes statements from witnesses and the three officers involved, Officer Allen D'Meza, Officer Thomas Greathouse and Corporal John Lloyd. Echols says just two of "at least nineteen" witnesses interviewed "reported seeing a significant portion of the foot chase and/or the shooting itself" and that witness accounts as a whole were inconsistent and limited. (Little detail is given about the other witnesses' accounts).
Bailey's family, who conducted their own canvassing of the neighborhood
after his death, however, say they do not believe the police account of what happened on the afternoon of February 15. In April, family members told reporters that witnesses said they didn't see Bailey with a gun or hear officers tell him to drop a weapon. More broadly, they questioned whether the police response was appropriate for responding to a curfew violation. Kids were getting off a school bus and playing nearby, they said.
“No justice has been done here," Bailey's parents said in a joint statement. " ... We do not believe he posed any threat to the officers when they killed him. We do not believe he was armed when he was shot. They weren’t thinking he was somebody’s son when they killed him."
Bailey, twenty-four, was a father of two young boys.
Here is the full statement from Bailey's parents:
On Tuesday morning, September 26th, Kenneth Bailey, Sr. and Louise Pratt, the parents of Kenny Lee Bailey, Jr., met with District Attorney Rogers Echols to discuss his office’s assessment of the SBI investigation into the police-involved shooting of their son on February 15th, 2017.
“We are disappointed by their decision not to prosecute,” the parents said in a joint statement. “We will continue working to find accountability for this unjustified shooting.”
Bailey’s family says they do not believe the police account of the events on the afternoon when Kenny was killed. A civilian witness told SBI investigators that Kenny was shot from behind, as the autopsy confirmed, and that he was not holding a gun. The Bailey's have also done their own community-based investigation.
The family is also aware of witnesses who heard Kenny say, “I’m down,” and “you got me,” after he was shot the first time and before the fatal shot entered his back and punctured his lungs.
“No justice has been done here,” Bailey and Pratt said, continuing to question why officers stormed a third party’s home with guns drawn when Kenny was wearing an ankle bracelet.
"We do not believe he posed any threat to the officers when they killed him. We do not believe he was armed when he was shot. They weren’t thinking he was somebody’s son when they killed him."
Echols introduced the findings of the inquiry, conducted by five investigators, with an explanation of a District Attorney's role in any possible charges related to an officer-involved shooting and of the legal standards around the use of deadly force by police.
"If no criminal charges are filed, that does not necessarily mean that the District Attorney believes the matter was handled appropriately in all respects from an administrative or tactical standpoint," he wrote. "The decision not to charge is a professional determination that there is not a reasonable likelihood of proving criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously to a jury."
According to the press release, there were no fingerprints on a gun found "several yards" from Bailey's body. DNA analysis found "four or more contributors of DNA to the firearm which made it impossible to draw conclusions as to the DNA." Testing performed on Bailey found particles consistent with gunshot residue.
Here's Echols' full statement:
Community organization SpiritHouse also released a statement on Echols’ report.
“All too often, victims of police shootings are blamed, shamed, and framed as if they would still be alive if they had acted differently, when in fact, the cause of death is initiated with the police instigating an encounter that could be de-escalated through community involvement, proper training and implementation of protocols,” the statement said.
SpiritHouse, Walltown Neighborhood Ministries, and the NAACP assisted Bailey’s family through their review of the moments leading to Bailey's death.
“The Bailey family should not have to bury their hopes for accountability for their son’s life today because a prosecutor’s determination is, based on the evidence currently available, he cannot sustain a guilty verdict in a court of law,” said SpiritHouse executive director Nia Wilson. “The life of Kenneth Bailey cannot be forgotten and we will continue to stand with this family to find answers, and seek justice and accountability.”