Crime & Courts

Charlotte officer fatally shoots robbery suspect at shopping center, police say

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer fatally shot a robbery suspect Wednesday afternoon, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said.

Putney said the officer approached the man because he matched the description of a suspect in two armed robberies that happened earlier in the day.

The officer shot after the man “created an imminent threat to the officer,” Putney told reporters. Putney did not describe the threat and did not directly answer a question about whether the suspect was armed.

Police recovered a knife at the scene, according to a CMPD news release Wednesday night.

On Thursday morning, CMPD identified the man who was shot as 32-year-old Michael Daniel Kelley.

CMPD identified the officer who shot Kelley as K-9 Officer Timothy Kiefer. CMPD hired Kiefer on Jan. 22, 2007, according to a CMPD news release.

The release gave this account of the robberies and subsequent shooting:

At about 1:40 p.m., “a male suspect entered a church in the 300 block of Freeland Lane and asked for money. When a man inside declined to give the suspect money, the victim stated the suspect pulled out a box cutter, cut the victim and took his car keys before stealing the victim’s Infiniti.”

Crime scene investigators collect evidence after a fatal shooting by a police officer Wednesday. Jeff Siner

Soon after, a suspect matching the description of the assailant in the church robbery robbed a Family Dollar in the 4600 block of West Tyvola Road and left in an Infiniti, the release said. “The store employees reported they believed the suspect was armed with a gun during the commission of the robbery,” according to the release. No injuries were reported.

CMPD Communications “broadcast the suspect’s description from both incidents city-wide,” according to the release, and at about 2:40 p.m., a patrol officer found the unoccupied stolen Infiniti in a shopping center in the 1500 block of West Boulevard.

“Officers were circulating the area attempting to find the suspect when the K9 officer located the man in the 1500 block of West Boulevard,” the release said.

After spotting the man, the K9 officer left his marked police vehicle and “made contact with the subject,” according to the news release. “During the encounter, the officer perceived an imminent deadly threat and subsequently fired his weapon striking the man.”

Police did not say in the news release how many times the officer shot at the man and how many bullets hit him.

As is standard procedure, the Internal Affairs Bureau will investigate the incident and the officer will go on paid administrative leave, police said.

Witness Ron Straite, 62, told The Charlotte Observer he heard an officer telling someone who was near the shopping center’s Dumpster to show his hands. Straite said the officer told the man three times to take his hand from behind his back. The officer “shot three times” after the man “pulled an object out” while approaching the officer, Straite told the Observer. Straite, who was about 100 feet away, said he couldn’t see what the object was.

The officer shot three more times after the suspect refused the officer’s commands, Straite said.

“I think (the officer) did everything he could to keep from shooting,” Straite said.

The Observer’s Jeff Siner contributed.