DA: Officer who fatally shot mentally ill man acted within the law

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by GARY L. WRIGHT & CLEVE R. WOOTSON, Jr. / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 10:12 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office has concluded that an officer who fatally shot a mentally ill man armed with a box cutter earlier this month “had no choice but to use deadly force.”

District Attorney Andrew Murray, in a letter to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, gave vivid details of the Jan. 6 shooting of Spencer Mims III at his home off Tyvola Road. It says the 55-year-old told officers: “Go ahead and shoot me.”

Spencer Mims III and his father, Spencer Mims Jr., were watching a football game on TV Jan. 6 when the younger Mims became angry and erratic, according to Murray.

Spencer Mims III “began cursing at one of the teams, to an extent that Mims Jr. had never seen before,” the DA’s letter says.

After the game, the younger Mims slammed a pizza box down, cursed his 82-year-old father and slammed his bedroom door.

‘Abnormal’ behavior cited

Murray’s letter, released to the media Tuesday, said that Spencer Mims III regularly saw a psychiatrist and was on medication for bipolar disorder. During the month before the fatal shooting, the father had noticed that his son seemed “abnormal, as if intoxicated” on occasions.

Spencer Mims Jr. was afraid to stay alone with his son that evening and left the house, the DA said. He did not tell his son that he was going to look for a police officer.

The DA gave this account of what next:

The father drove for just a few minutes before finding an officer at a traffic stop. He told officer that he needed help getting some things from the house so he could spend the night elsewhere.

The officer put in a call at 10:54 p.m., and Mims Jr. was told to go back to the neighborhood, away from his house, and wait for an officer.

Officers J.B. Donaldson and M.D. Whitlock responded to the call.

Donaldson asked the father if there were any weapons in the house. He told officer that his son had mental health issues and that there had been a prior incident when police took two handguns out of the house.

Unknown to the father and the two officers, the younger Mims was sitting on the front porch. He had turned off the light, and the porch was dark.

The son then spoke up, letting his father and the two officers know that he could hear what they were saying.

Donaldson saw that the younger Mims was holding a box cutter to his neck with the blade extended.

Donaldson repeatedly told him to drop the box cutter.

Mims III refused, and yelled: “I know your games. I know what you’re trying to do.”

‘Go ahead and shoot me’

Whitlock pulled out his Taser and prepared to fire it. The younger Mims asked Donaldson if he was going to shoot him.

Donaldson said: “No.”

Mims’ father said: “Son, he ain’t trying to shoot you.”

During the confrontation, Mims III pointed to his forehead and said: “Put it right here. Go ahead and shoot me. I’ve been putting up with this for 40 years and I’m tired.”

Whitlock fired the Taser, but only one prong struck Mims.

Donaldson had moved in to cuff Mims and had placed a hand on him.

Mims yelled ‘No,” and held the box cutter out and pointed at Donaldson, Murray wrote. Donaldson began backing up. He yelled twice for Mims to drop the knife.

“Mims III kept advancing, the box cutter pointed upward,” the DA wrote.

When Mims was within about five feet of Donaldson, the officer fired two shots. Mims kept advancing. Donaldson fired a third shot when Mims was an arm’s length from him.

Mims fell and the officers called dispatchers at 11:09 p.m. to request MEDIC. Mims was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Donaldson told detectives that he felt Mims was about to stab him or cut him in the face. Whitlock told detectives he felt that Donaldson’s life was in danger.

“Whitlock said that Donaldson had no other options because Donaldson had retreated and Mims III was coming at him with a knife and was almost on top of him,” Murray wrote.

“It is clear from the information available to this Office that Officer Donaldson had no choice but to use deadly force,” Murray concluded. “His actions were justified under North Carolina law.”

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