Crime

CMPD officer: Woman came at me with knife

CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe spoke to a concerned crowd at a community meeting with police. About a dozen protesters wore “Justice for Janisha” t-shirts and held signs. A CMPD officer shot Janisha Fonville in February.
CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe spoke to a concerned crowd at a community meeting with police. About a dozen protesters wore “Justice for Janisha” t-shirts and held signs. A CMPD officer shot Janisha Fonville in February. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Investigators found a kitchen knife splintered by a bullet where Janisha Fonville was killed, supporting the officer’s claim that he shot the woman in self-defense as she closed in on him.

According to a report by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, Officer Anthony Holzhauer said Fonville had a knife and came within a half-foot of him before he shot her on Feb. 18.

“I could see the knife,” Holzhauer told investigators in the newly released document, which includes partial transcripts of interviews by police and photos of the knife. “... She raised her hand up above her head and then lunged at me.”

Holzhauer said Fonville’s body brushed him as she fell to the ground.

Fonville, 20, died after being shot inside her public housing unit north of uptown. Holzhauer and another officer approached her immediately after they were told by her girlfriend, outside the apartment, that Fonville was mentally ill and might hurt herself.

The girlfriend, Korneisha Banks, told officers that Fonville had a knife inside the apartment. A child and a 16-year-old were also in the unit.

Banks has said the officers were in the dimly lit home for about 15 seconds before an unarmed Fonville was killed. Holzhauer fired twice, with one bullet striking Fonville in the chest, an autopsy showed. Another bullet struck her in the right hand, piercing the knife’s handle, the district attorney’s report states.

A second officer, Shon Sheffield, told investigators on the night of the incident that he didn’t see the knife in Fonville’s hands. But he said he watched it “flipping through the air” after she was shot.

Had Holzhauer not fired, “He would have been killed,” Sheffield said.

District Attorney Andrew Murray on Thursday cleared Holzhauer of an unlawful behavior.

A troubled woman

The new account adds details to previous versions of the tragic incident. Earlier accounts, from Holzhauer’s lawyer and Banks, left in dispute whether Fonville brandished a weapon or had failed to respond to warnings to drop the knife.

“She didn’t get shot lying on the couch,” said Michael Greene, Holzhauer’s attorney. “She got shot because she dove at the officer and lunged at him.”

Banks told investigators after the shooting that Fonville had talked many times about killing herself and others. Once, she said, Fonville cut herself so deeply that she needed nine stitches. Another time, Banks said, Fonville grazed her with a knife.

“She just said she always wanted to kill people,” Banks told police. “She just didn’t want to go to jail for it.”

Fonville had been diagnosed with a mood disorder and depression.

Investigation continues

Fonville’s blood was found on the knife and Holzhauer’s gun, the district attorney’s office report states.

Photographs released by the office Thursday show the knife in pieces, with the blade separated from its handle.

The 30-page report, which includes only a portion of the officers’ and witnesses’ interviews with investigators, sheds light on the domestic dispute call that turned deadly.

It points to inconsistencies in some statements made by Banks.

Banks told the Observer last month that she never heard Holzhauer ask Fonville to drop the knife.

But during her Feb. 18 interview with police investigators, Banks said, “They (police) asked her could she ... throw the knife away.”

Banks later said, “They asked her to put the knife down or get rid of the knife or whatnot.”

Banks said Fonville lunged at her, calling her a “b---h” before Holzhauer fired. Banks and Holzhauer were standing next to each other, reports show.

Banks declined to talk about the district attorney’s report Friday. On Thursday, she called the decision to clear Holzhauer “ridiculous.” She said the district attorney’s office was simply protecting a city police officer.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe says the internal investigation of the incident is continuing.

Greene said Holzhauer, 27, is looking forward to returning to duty.

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