Crime

Officers who killed murder suspect during gunfight won’t face charges

dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Mecklenburg prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against eight police officers who killed a murder suspect they were trying to apprehend during a gunfight earlier this year.

In total, eight police officers fired shots at Germonta Wallace, striking him 25 times, the district attorney’s office said in a memo to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. Wallace fired at officers even after he was hit and fell to the ground, striking Det. Jessica Zinobile in the ankle. Her injury wasn’t life-threatening.

“Each officer was lawfully justified in shooting at Wallace until he was no longer a threat,” the memo says. “In this situation, each officer had the right of self-defense and also the right to defend the other officers and civilians nearby.”

Wallace, 30, was a suspect in the Christmas-week killing of Norris Martin, whose body was found in a burning car near the Gaston County town of Ranlo. Several other men have been charged with Martin’s killing and were rounded up earlier this year. The killing was connected to an earlier shooting in Charlotte as well.

On Jan. 3 CMPD’s Violent Criminal apprehension team tracked Wallace to a duplex on Watson Drive, near Remount Road.

Wallace wasn’t at the first door officers knocked on, but they were also watching an adjacent home and Wallace and another man appeared to stumble across the large contingent of heavily armed officers.

Zinobile told prosecutors that the man later identified as Wallace shot first.

In the memo, she said she saw two people come out of the back of the house she was watching “and they just froze and then I heard one of (the detectives) say ‘police.’..I didn’t know who it was, but the front person pulled out a gun and started shooting at my guys on the primary house.”

Another officer at the scene said he saw the two men, but didn’t know they were suspects until he shined a flashlight.

“It is likely that Wallace was struck during the initial exchange of gunfire between him and the police,” the memo said. “However, even after Wallace fell, he reengaged the police by shooting at them from the ground. At that point, multiple detectives fired at Wallace until he was no longer a threat.”

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson

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