FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — An off-duty sheriff’s deputy won’t face charges for the fatal shooting of a Black pedestrian on a busy road earlier this year, a North Carolina prosecutor announced Thursday, saying the deputy had reason to fear bodily harm and to defend himself.
The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys reviewed the shooting death of Jason Walker on Jan. 8 after the local district attorney recused himself from the case. In a letter Thursday, conference executive director Kimberly Overton Spahos wrote that it will not pursue charges against Jeffrey Hash, who was off duty from his job at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the shooting.
The letter, citing evidence collected by the State Bureau of Investigation, said that Hash, who is white, stopped his personal vehicle in traffic about 30 feet (9 meters) from Walker when he saw him run into the road on Jan. 8 in Fayetteville. The prosecutors wrote that Walker ran forward, jumped on the hood of the truck, removed a windshield wiper and struck the windshield to the point of breaking it. Hash’s wife and daughter were inside.
After shouting at Walker to stop, Hash then exited his truck and shot Walker four times after Walker lunged at him, according to the letter.
“In this case, the evidence clearly supports the conclusion that Hash reasonably believed that he, his wife, and his child were in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death at the hands of Walker,” the letter said, adding that Walker had made a “violent assault upon the vehicle.”
The letter also noted that, in considering criminal charges, prosecutors had to determine whether they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime happened.
The prosecutors wrote “while it is possible that other alternatives were available to Hash, the analysis is not and cannot be whether his actions were the only option or even the best option.”
The shooting prompted protests by demonstrators who questioned authorities’ account of what happened.
An autopsy released in March found that Walker had wounds to his head, chest, back and thigh. The report noted that no alcohol or illegal drugs were found in his system.
The prosecutor’s letter on Thursday said Walker was yelling, waving his hands and appeared to be agitated when he ran into the road.
Two witnesses at the scene spoke to officers and were recorded on previously released police body camera video, including one who identified himself as Walker’s father. The witnesses also described how Walker jumped on the vehicle, and his father said Walker tore off a windshield wiper. The videos do not show the shooting or what led up to it.
An attorney for Walker’s family, Ben Crump, has previously said a disagreement between a pedestrian and a sworn officer, who’s trained to deescalate situations, shouldn’t result in use of deadly force. Crump didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
An attorney for Hash, Parrish Daughtry, expressed gratitude that the special prosecutor followed the law and conducted a thorough investigation, which she said included a careful examination of physical evidence and witness interviews.
“We greatly appreciate that this was not a quick arrest situation, but rather that the state did what appears to be a very thorough investigation,” she said. She said her client grieves for the loss of life and for Walker’s family.