Report: Federal judge tosses out case, rules that officer’s use of force was justified in shooting of armed man


PINEVILLE, NC – According to reports, a federal judge has thrown out the lawsuit a man filed against an officer who he claims shot him multiple times as he was kneeling and following orders to drop his gun.

Court records show that police fired 12 shots at Timothy Caraway while he was near or on the ground. Out of the 12 bullets, four struck Caraway. Body camera footage of the February 2022 incident shows that Caraway said:

“I just did what I was told to do. Y’all said to drop it. I went on the ground. Why did y’all shoot me?”

In a 38-page opinion, which came out less than a week before Caraway’s case was set to go to trial, U.S. District Court Judge Frank Whitney provided an answer.

According to the judge, Caraway had posed a reasonably lethal threat to the officers and to the public, even if, as Caraway claimed, he had removed his gun from his pocket only after police had ordered him to drop his weapon. Whitney wrote:

“Here the facts show the threat was real. [Caraway] abruptly placed his hand in his pocket and pulled out his firearm as the officers approached. A reasonable jury could find the officers were justified in interpreting this sudden act as a threat.”

Whitney added that even if Caraway’s contention that he never pointed the gun directly at the officers was true, the police “were not required to wait to see whether [Caraway] ever did.”

The incident unfolded on February 1st, 2020 on North Polk Street in Pineville after a driver called 911 to report that she had seen a black man with long dreadlocks pointing a gun as he walked along one of the town’s main drags.

According to his lawsuit, Caraway, who at the time was 23-years-old, was on his way to visit his grandmother and was unaware that the police were coming towards him.

Footage from Officer Adam Roberts’ body camera shows the armed officer walking up behind armed Caraway as the other officers flanked out around him.

Over a few seconds, a series of shouted police orders rang out and Caraway briefly comes into view. He was either kneeling on the ground or close to it. In the video, what he is doing with his hands is unclear and at that moment police start shooting at Caraway.

Two officers, Roberts and Jamon Griffin, fired 12 shots at Caraway during a 3.5 second time span.

Caraway’s attorneys argued that the number of shots fired was excessive, in part because for most of it, they stated that their client was lying helpless and wounded on the sidewalk.

Two other senior officers were also at the scene. According to Caraway’s lawsuit, one of those officers, Nicholas French, reportedly told state investigators that he had not fired his weapon because Caraway never raised or extended his handgun in a threatening way.

The judge, however, found that the number of shots was reasonable, concluding that Officer’s Roberts and Griffin had not see Caraway drop his gun and kept shooting “based off their perception that [Caraway] was still moving, armed and dangerous.

The judge also said that the law does not require police to be mind-readers. He wrote:

“… Even if [Caraway] merely intended to comply with the commands to drop his weapon, it does not follow that this unspoken intention must have been clear to the officers.”

Since Caraway’s attorneys did not show that Roberts and Griffin had violated “any clearly established law,” the judge approved the officers’ request for “qualified immunity,” which will protect the officers from individual liability in lawsuits.

Whitney also threw our Caraway’s other claims, including malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, failure to train and supervise, and assault and battery under North Carolina law.

The gun Caraway was carrying had been reported stolen. After Caraway was released from the hospital, Pineville police charged him with eight crimes. The Mecklenburg County District’s Attorney Office eventually dismissed all the charges, citing a lack of evidence.

Michael Littlejohn, one of Caraways attorneys, declined to comment to The Charlotte Observer about the case, including whether he plans to file an appeal or not.

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