Pineville, NC – An armed suspect accused of pointing a gun at passing motorists last year is suing the Pineville Police Department (PPD) for wounding him in an officer-involved shooting.
The encounter between Timothy Rochell Caraway and police occurred on Feb. 1, 2020, after officers received a report that a man was waving a gun in a congested area off North Polk Street in the middle of the day, WSOC reported.
Witnesses said the suspect pointed a handgun at people driving in the 900-block of Polk Street, which is near Interstate 85, according to WBTV.
The dispatcher told officers over the radio that the suspect “should be holding a gun, black in color,” bodycam footage revealed.
Officers responded to the area and spotted Caraway on the sidewalk, WSOC reported.
Police said he initially complied with their orders and raised his hands, according to WBTV.
He was holding a black object, which police later said was a phone.
But a moment later, according to police, Caraway dropped his hand down and pulled out a gun.
“He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a gun,” PPD Chief Michael Hudgins told reporters in March, when the agency released the bodycam footage. “At this time, officers perceived this as an imminent threat.”
PPD Officer Jamon Griffin and Officer Adam Roberts opened fire on the suspect a total of 12 times, hitting him in the torso, neck, hand, and wrist, WBTV reported.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I was just doing what I was told to do,” Caraway said in the video after the shooting. “Ya’ll said, ‘Drop it.’ I’m sorry.”
He further claimed there had been a girl following him and that he was just trying to get her to stop, WSOC reported.
Caraway was rushed to a local hospital and survived his wounds.
He was subsequently charged with obstruct and delay law enforcement officers, resisting, carrying a concealed weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, and four counts of assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, WBTV reported.
The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office dismissed those charges shortly thereafter, claiming there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case against Caraway, according to The Charlotte Observer.
The only charge prosecutors filed against Caraway was being in possession of a stolen firearm, WCNC reported in March.
The officers involved in the shooting were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, and were also cleared through a “separate administrative investigation conducted by an outside law enforcement consulting firm,” the PPD said in a press release on Tuesday.
Caraway filed a lawsuit against the Town of Pineville and four PPD officers on July 29, accusing the officers of using excessive force against him, The Charlotte Observer reported.
His Attorney, Michael Littlejohn, alleged the officers shot Caraway as he was following orders to put down the gun he had in his coat pocket and that they continued to shoot him while he was on the ground, according to the paper.
Littlejohn claimed police then conspired against Caraway to justify the shooting, to include allegedly fabricating evidence.
He said the officers ran up behind his client that day issuing conflicting commands, describing the scene as a “deadly game of ‘Simon Says,’” The Charlotte Observer reported.
“The excessiveness of the police force is unspeakable,” the lawyer declared to the paper on July 30. “My client did not commit a crime that day. Period. And this is what happened.”
The lawsuit further accuses the officers and town officials of false arrest, fabrication of evidence, and malicious prosecution.
Littlejohn issued a statement along with the lawsuit, saying the officer-involved shooting is just another example of how law enforcement officers use excessive violence against black people, The Charlotte Observer reported.
“Black people in this country are acutely aware of the danger police stops pose to black lives,” he said. “Mr. Caraway — a victim of excessive force — is trying his best to cope with the incident and continues to receive treatment for the injuries he sustained.”
The PPD issued a statement Tuesday confirming it has received and reviewed Caraway’s lawsuit.
“We want our community to know we remain transparent and focus driven as we await our day in court,” the statement read. “At this stage it is important to remember that our officers have ben cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, and…have also been cleared through a separate administrative investigation conducted by an outside law enforcement consulting firm.”
The PPD said they released the bodycam footage of the incident in March in an effort to show the community “what took place and the dangers our officers faced that day regarding the split-second decisions that were needed to keep themselves and the public safe.”
The department has also held numerous open forums for community members and the media to discuss the facts of the case.
“This is a difficult time for all of us and we are committed to doing the right thing,” the PPD said. “Our department supports and will defend our four police officers, who put their lives on the line every single day without question.”
The status of the gun charge filed against Caraway is unclear.
He also has a history of arrests for offenses of assault by strangulation, injury to personal property, and battery of an unborn child, WCNC reported.