Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A coroner's inquest began Tuesday into the death of 21-year-old man who was shot and killed by Columbia police officers in May.
Coroner Gary Watts is holding the hearing into the death of Ajani Mitchell. Six jurors are hearing the case.
Mitchell's family members say he was shot 11 times.
State Law Enforcement Division agents and police officers who responded to the scene of the incident testified Tuesday. The three officers involved in the testimony were among those who spoke.
According to testimony from officers, Mitchell's mother contacted police earlier that day saying Mitchell had a gun and made threats to shoot at the house and police.
The three officers involved in the shooting testified that they were told about Mitchell having a weapon and his threats made earlier in the day about shooting officers.
Two officers who fired shots at Mitchell say 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."
"He turned and pointed the gun directly and me and Officer Fields, I was looking right down the barrel and he made eye contact with me and that's when I began firing," said Officer Adam Anderson. "I was in fear that he would shoot me, and I was in fear of my life and Officer Fields' life."
Watts says inquests are not common but are useful when there a potential conflicts in investigations.
"They're generally held in cases where public entities are involved, where people may have some concerns of a government agency being involved, trying to shift things one way or another," Watts explains. "The idea of the inquest is to put the decision back on the general public. The jurors are comprised of the jury pool that is pulled for general sessions court. They will come in, they will hear testimony from all the parties involved. They will make a decision, they will hand down a verdict as to what they believe the situation warrants."
Interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago is expected to testify at the inquest Wednesday.