MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – A shooting review board found the Macon police involved shooting at the Kroger on Pio Nono Avenue last December was justified.
According to the report released to 41NBC from the Macon Police Department, the shooting review board met for more than one hour and 30 minutes Tuesday morning to look over the case.
The board consisted of nine members: MPD Majors Charles Stone, Brady Fields, Tonnie Williams, and Robert Grabowski, and training Academy Lt. Kelvin Harris, two members from an outside law enforcement agency, Cpt. Brad King with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office and Sgt. Michael Clay with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, and two citizens, local businessman Connie Carter and former Bibb County Solicitor Otis Scarbury.
The board met to conduct an "independent, objective, internal/external" review to determine if MPD officer Clayton Sutton violated any departmental policies or procedures during the Kroger shooting incident.
Each board member received a manual before Tuesday's meeting which included the original incident report, all supplemental reports, the GBI investigation, witness statements, officer statements, state crime lab reports, state autopsy report, MPD crime lab report, MPD triangulation data sheet, MPD crime lab measurements, and Officer Sutton's disciplinary history.
During the meeting, Sgt. Bittick explained the MPD's Use of Force Policy. According to the report, he told board members Georgia law requires officers to take a two-hour refresher course every year, but MPD's internal policy requires officers complete an "8-hour block of 'use of force' instruction each year."
The issue of "preventing bias policing" was also brought up, but Major Grabowski told board members Sutton was responding to a non-emergency call at the Kroger and "this was not a random officer/citizen encounter."
The report states even though Davis was several inches taller and outweighed Sutton by over 100 pounds, that did not cause the officer to shoot him. Rather, "a combination of actions by Davis (refusal to remove his left hand from his pocket, lunging at the officer, and ultimately cutting his neck) caused Officer Sutton to fear for his life and shoot him."
The number of shots fired was also brought up during the meeting. Sgt. Bittick explained to the board that "officers who believe their lives are in danger are trained to keep shooting until the threat is removed."
The use of in-car cameras was also questioned. According to the report, Sutton's in-car camera was not turned on at first because he was responding to a non-emergency call. He did eventually turn it on and Major Stone told the board "an officer trying to hide his actions would not activate his in-car camera under any circumstances."
It was a unanimous vote. Deputy Chief Mike Carswell calls the shooting a tragic set of circumstances, but Sutton's case has gone through due process and they found he did not break any protocols when he shot Davis.
"The bottom line is that the actions of the police officer once he reasonably felt that he was in imminent danger of physical harm and felt in fear for his life, his conduct did not violate police," Carswell said.
The report says the board did find one policy violation by Sutton and that was not calling E-911 when he arrived on scene. He is facing a written reprimand for that policy infraction.
Last month, Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke announced he was not pressing criminal charges against Sutton for the shooting based on the recommendation of the GBI's investigation.
This incident has sparked distrust between the community and MPD. The Department of Justice is holding four community forums over the next few weeks so officers and citizens can come together and share their problems.
As of now, the dates for the forums are April 30 from 1pm to 5pm, May 2 from 7pm to 9pm, May 7 from 1pm to 5pm, and May 9 from 7pm to 10pm. No word on where the forums will take place. Stay with 41NBC and 41NBC.com for updates.