Ajani Mitchell (Image Source: Bostic Thompson Funeral Home Website)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A jury in a coroner's inquest says Columbia police officers acted in self-defense when they shot and killed a suspect last May.
The six-member panel reached its decision Wednesday afternoon in the death of 21-year-old Ajani Mitchell.
Back in May, officers shot to death Mitchell after they say he threatened them with a pistol on Conveyor Street.
During the inquest, the two officers who fired shots at Mitchell testified that he had a gun in his hand and was hopping a fence. When the gun was put in their direction, two of the officers fired their weapons "until the threat was eliminated."
The two said they feared for their lives.
The medical examiner said 12 bullets struck Mitchell's body, most of them entering his back. He says the statements from the officers were in-line with his findings.
Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago also testified. After the verdict he said he was pleased that his officers would be alright, but he still felt for the Mitchell family.
"Every time you take someone's life, whether it's in the line of duty or in self defense, it's one of those situations where you just don't turn it on and turn it off," said Santiago. "I look at particularly, did they do things in accordance with our policy and procedures, did they do things in a way that was going to safeguard themselves and the public, and if they did that, then I consider this justified shooting and I that's what this was."
An attorney for Mitchell's family said they are disappointed by the verdict but will continue to seek justice.
The jury also found that the Columbia Police Department should implement better processes to secure crime scenes, and create a policy or procedure that makes sure officers are accountable for their documents.
This came after an officer used incorrect information to fill out department paperwork following injuries suffered after the May shooting.
Santiago says he has already issued directives to address those problems. He also says the officers involved have returned to work.