CMPD use of force justified in fatal shooting
The gun looked serious.
When CMPD officer Michael Dezenzo knocked on the door of a north Charlotte house on March 8, he saw a man inside with a rifle far more powerful than the pistol Dezenzo carried on his belt.
“Long gun, long gun, long gun!” Dezenzo yelled.
Minutes later, the other CMPD officer on scene would fatally shoot the man with the rifle, 25-year-old Ukrainian immigrant Iaroslav Mosiiuk.
That officer, Brian Walsh, told investigators that everything happened so fast, he didn’t have time to tell Mosiiuk to drop the gun.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray announced Thursday that Walsh won’t face criminal charges. Murray determined that the use of deadly force was justified because Walsh saw Mosiiuk pointing the rifle at Dezenzo, so he shot him. An autopsy showed Mosiiuk died from one gunshot to the back.
Investigators would later determine that Mosiiuk’s rifle didn’t work.
Mosiiuk’s sister Olesya Tabaka had called 911 to say her brother was having a mental breakdown. She said he was searching for her boyfriend’s gun, but that a key part of the gun was hidden separately.
Murray determined that because the officers on scene didn’t know for sure whether the gun worked, it was reasonable for them to believe it was “operable, loaded and capable of causing death.”
Murray used body camera footage and other information to determine that Walsh did not break the law. On Thursday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Gregory R. Hayes ruled that the body camera footage can be released publicly, following small redactions to protect the identity of Walsh’s wife. The date when the footage will be available is not yet certain.
The letter from Murray, which is addressed to CMPD Chief Kerr Putney, does not deal with whether Walsh followed CMPD’s internal policies. An internal investigation is still ongoing, department spokesman Rob Tufano said Thursday, and Walsh is assigned to administrative duties.
Walsh was hired by CMPD in 2002 and has been a SWAT team member for 10 years, he told investigators.
Murray’s letter is accompanied by more than 150 pages of documents and photos associated with the case, including interviews with Walsh, Dezenzo and Tabaka.
Both Dezenzo and Walsh told investigators that they knew their pistols were no match for the rifle Mosiiuk carried. Documents describe it as a Remington bolt-action hunting rifle, and officers believed its bullets might cut through their cars if they took cover there. They also weren’t sure if their protective vests could withstand fire from the rifle.
In an interview with CMPD investigators the day after the shooting, Walsh said that once he heard Dezenzo yell “Long gun!” he ran toward his car to get his own rifle.
But before he got there, Walsh said he saw Mosiiuk come “charging out the front door.” Mosiiuk then began tracking Walsh’s movements with the rifle, Walsh said.
Investigators asked Walsh how he felt while Mosiiuk was pointing the rifle at him.
“Um, my honest, honestly, I was scared out of my, my mind,” Walsh said.
“And uh, my first thought process was I’m not gonna see my kids tonight...and my family.”
Walsh went on to tell investigators that he didn’t know whether Dezenzo had reached cover, and then he saw Mosiiuk “tracking in the direction that Officer Dezenzo was running.”
That’s when he fired the gun, striking Mosiiuk in the back. He said he saw Mosiiuk drop the rifle and roll off the hill at that point.
Dezenzo put handcuffs on Mosiiuk, who didn’t resist, he told investigators. Then he wanted to move him to somewhere MEDIC could tend to him, he said.
“I dragged him, again he’s limp...uh drag him about...I don’t know maybe 30 maybe 40 maybe 50 yards,” he told investigators.
Then another officer performed chest compressions on Mosiiuk.
Attorney Lauren Newton, who represents Mosiiuk’s family, didn’t comment on the DA’s decision in detail Thursday afternoon because she and his relatives had not fully reviewed it.
Newton emphasized that the original 911 call asked for help with a man going through a mental health crisis.
“This was a mental health call,” Newton said. “And if this is the way that mental health calls are handled, people will be afraid to call the police.”
Newton said it’s too early to say whether the family will bring a civil suit.