Charlotte, NC – Bodycam footage of officers’ fatal encounter with a gunman in the parking lot of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) on Jan. 11 was released by the court on Tuesday.
“He ambushed us,” CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said during a press conference the day after the shooting. “He shot at us.”
Police had been searching for Jonathan Bennett, 23, since just after 2 p.m., when they discovered the body of his girlfriend, 24-year-old Brittany White, at a residence, WCNC reported.
Investigators believed that Bennett fatally shot White, and that he fled the residence with the couple’s two-month-old daughter, Journei Bennett, according to WSOC. A second child was left inside the residence, and was unharmed.
Police briefly issued an Amber Alert, but located the infant unharmed at approximately 5:30 p.m., WCNC reported.
Officers continued to search for Bennett, who was considered to be armed and dangerous.
A multi-agency group of police and probation officers convened in the parking lot just before 11 p.m., and were preparing to conduct probation compliance checks, police said.
“As they were briefing … the homicide suspect from earlier today that we’d been looking for in the white SUV pulled in, and basically, ambushed our officers,” Chief Putney said.
Officer Jeff Zederbaum’s bodycam footage showed him talking to Officer Casey Shue just prior to Bennett’s attack, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Although the bodycam equipment was capable of capturing 30 seconds of video prior to the time that the officers actually activated their cameras, the audio feature was not designed to engage until the moment of activation, leaving the initial half-a-minute silent.
Despite the lack of audio, the moment that Bennett opened fire was obvious, based on the officers’ reactions. They dropped to the ground, scrambled to reposition, and fired back at their attacker.
One bodycam video showed the conversing officers as they scrambled for cover.
That officer swiftly circled a patrol car with his sidearm in hand, then moved towards the gunman, along with his fellow officers.
“Shue’s hit! Shue’s hit!” the officer yelled, as he ran towards a row of bushes.
Officer Jared Decker’s bodycam showed Bennett as he advanced on the group of officers from out of the shadows, and then abruptly fell to his stomach, while the silent video recorded.
A moment later, Officer Decker’s audio function also engaged.
“He’s got his hands underneath!” one officer cautioned, as they moved towards the gunman.
“I’m stepping on the gun,” another officer said.
In the video, Bennett can be seen lying on the ground, as the officer’s bodycam footage steadied.
Officer Zederbaum’s bodycam video showed him and another officer handcuffing the gunman, as the camera’s audio function engaged.
As many as eight officers were believed to be in the parking lot at the time of the ambush, WSOC reported.
Multiple officers immediately began tending to the injured gunman, while another officer radioed for assistance.
“Our officers and probation [officers] returned fire,” Chief Putney continued. “The suspect was transported to the hospital and is now deceased.”
Officer Shue was struck in the leg during the ambush, but was released from the hospital two days later.
She later told The Charlotte Observer that she felt the bullet’s impact before she ever heard the shots ring out.
Autopsy results indicated that Bennett was shot 14 times, and was grazed by two additional rounds, WBTV reported.
He was also found to have used alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana prior to the attack.
On April 3, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office announced that no charges would be filed against any of the officers involved in the fatal shooting, and that their actions were justified.
Watch bodycam footage from several officers in the video below: