The police officer who shot and killed a woman at a northern Charlotte apartment Wednesday night had been involved in shootings in the line of duty twice before, including one in 2012 that left a man dead, police said.
Police say Wednesday’s victim, Janisha Fonville, 20, refused to drop a kitchen knife and lunged at officers before Officer Anthony Holzhauer pulled his service pistol and shot her twice – in the hand and in the shoulder.
Holzhauer was responding to a domestic argument at about 9 p.m. when the confrontation occurred. Fonville, 20, was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterward.
At a Thursday news conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe said investigators are not looking to charge Holzhauer with a crime “at this point,” but the case will be turned over to the district attorney for review.
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Fonville’s cousin, Ben Harris, said he believes officers could have defused the situation without killing Fonville.
“They could have Tased her. She didn’t weigh but 120 pounds,” Harris said. “Why do they give police Tasers if the first thing they are going to reach for is the gun?”
Holzhauer was armed with a Taser but didn’t pull it, police said. It was unclear Thursday whether other responding officers pulled guns or Tasers.
Holzhauer’s attorney, Michael Greene, said he believes when the investigation is complete, “they’re going to determine that Officer Holzhauer did his job that night. Everything he did was absolutely 100 percent by the book and in accordance with CMPD policies and directives.”
He urged the public to not prejudge the case based on the previous shootings.
“The chief has shown that if they don’t believe an officer is acting in accordance with the law, they will bring charges. Both other times (Holzhauer) has taken action, he was cleared,” Greene said.
After the investigation into Holzhauer’s first fatal shooting, in 2012, Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray provided a detailed description of the circumstances.
On that day, another officer was struggling with a robbery suspect and yelled to Holzhauer “‘He’s got something in his waistband,’” Murray wrote. The struggling officer yelled three times that the suspect had a gun.
After it was clear the officer couldn’t control the suspect, “Officer Holzhauer heard his partner yell for him to shoot the suspect. It was at that point that Officer Holzhauer fired one shot from his duty weapon killing the suspect,” Murray wrote.
In 2013, Holzhauer was one of several officers involved in a shootout with suspects who had fired at police; no one was injured.
He was later awarded CMPD’s Medal of Valor for his actions in that shootout.
Holzhauer, 27, a five-year veteran of the force, was hired in January 2010. After Wednesday’s shooting, he has was placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure.
Fonville lived at the apartment on Bellefonte Drive with her mother. Monroe said police had been called to the address several other times for domestic disputes, an assault and an attempted suicide.
Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, a woman called 911 saying two women were involved in a domestic dispute at the apartment. “I think her and her girlfriend fell out and got into a fight,” the woman said on the recording. She told the dispatcher she didn’t think any weapons were involved.
Officers responded to the apartment on Bellefonte Drive off West 30th Street near North Tryon Street.
They “went in very calm,” said Harris, the victim’s cousin who was outside. Their lights and sirens weren’t activated.
Police were met by a woman who said she had been arguing with her domestic partner pretty much all day, and her partner was inside armed with a knife, Monroe said.
Officers went in to speak to Fonville in a small living room. She was on the couch holding a 6- to 8-inch knife, the chief said.
After being told several times to drop the knife, Fonville moved into a crouch, extended her arm and lunged at the officers, police said, and Holzhauer opened fire.
No one else was injured. The shooting was witnessed by another woman in the apartment. There also was an infant in the apartment at the time, Monroe said. Fonville’s partner is the child’s mother, police said.
Harris, 28, said he and the other people standing outside did not hear gunshots and had no indication Fonville had been shot until it was over. He called Fonville’s mother, who was at work, to tell her what had happened.
Holzhauer was taken to the hospital but was not injured. Monroe told reporters Holzhauer was shaken.
At the news conference, Monroe said, “There is concern for the officer and his well-being” after this third shooting. “Some may say it’s bad luck on the part of the officer.”
CMPD has started dual investigations in the shooting: a criminal investigation and an internal affairs probe to see whether police procedures were followed.
Fonville was a small, quiet woman who kept to herself, Harris said.
Rose Johnson said she worked with Fonville for two years at the Bojangles’ restaurant near Statesville Avenue and Interstate 85. Johnson described her as quiet and dependable, saying she rarely initiated conversations.
Fonville worked as a cashier and often walked more than 2 miles from home for night shifts at the restaurant, Johnson said.
When she heard about the shooting, Johnson said she had doubts about the police version of events.
“How did she take on police officers?” she asked. “That’s very hard to believe. ... Everybody here couldn’t believe it.”
An unreported incident at the home on Bellefonte Drive four days ago involved two people and knives, Monroe said. That information came out during the course of the current investigation, police said.
In 2012, Fonville was charged with resisting a public officer. In 2010, she was charged with assault and battery. Both charges were dismissed, Mecklenburg County records show.
Monroe said he didn’t know whether any other officers had been involved in multiple shootings but said most are never involved in a shooting.
Lakita Laney Perkins, a cousin of the man Holzhauer fatally shot in 2012, said her “heart just dropped” when she learned of the latest fatal shooting. But she wasn’t surprised.
“I feel like once you kill, you will kill again,” she said. “He just needs to be off the force. Period. We need some justice.”
Police ask that anyone with information about the case call 704-432-8477 or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. Staff researcher Maria David contributed.
Officer Anthony Holzhauer
▪ Employed with the CMPD since January 25, 2010. The 27-year-old is assigned to the Metro Division.
▪ In 2012, he fatally shot a suspect who tried to pull out a gun while wrestling with another officer.
▪ In 2013, he was one of the officers involved in a shootout with suspects who had fired at police; no one was injured.
▪ Not charged with a crime in either incident.
▪ The 20-year-old worked at a Bojangles’ two miles from her home. Coworkers said she was quiet but dependable.
▪ Accused of resisting a public officer in May 2012. She was charged with assault and battery in December 2010 and October 2011. All the charges were voluntarily dismissed.
▪ July 2012: Holzhauer fatally shot 28-year-old Michael Laney in the head in the Biddleville neighborhood off Beatties Ford Road, police said at the time. Laney was an armed robbery suspect.
Hours after the shooting, Monroe defended Holzhauer’s actions, saying he had no choice after Laney tried to pull a handgun from his waistband or pocket as he wrestled with another officer.
“They were in fear for their lives,” Monroe said at a news conference.
Laney’s relatives told reporters at the time that police overreacted. But the district attorney, Andrew Murray, determined there was no evidence that Holzhauer had acted unlawfully.
▪ September 2013: Holzhauer and another officer were following up on a 911 call about men loading firearms in a car. When they approached, the men in the car shot at the officers, who then returned fire.
The suspects drove away, but following a chase, were caught in Cabarrus County.