Relatives of a Black man fatally shot by Clayton County police are asking questions about the procedures used before killing their loved one. Suspicions are especially heightened after bodycam footage shows one officer firing one deadly shot, hitting the man, before asking him to put his weapon down.
Officers shot Charles Calhoun near his home on Jenni Circle in the Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro on March 23. The man’s family called a press conference on Friday, April 8, asking for answers and transparency as they review the case.
Mawuli Davis, the family’s attorney, says Calhoun was protecting his house after concerns about being burglarized. He also contends the officers did not identify themselves as law enforcement before the shooting.
The altercation began around 5:30 a.m. in response to a 911 call and lasted until a little after 6 a.m., leaving the 68-year-old dead after being struck by one shot.
The police department released a 31:24-minute video on Monday, April 11, detailing the shooting from their perspective, which included a narration of the event, maps, and bodycam video.
Davis said the video was released without notice to the family.
“They have not been emotionally and psychologically prepared to view the video that was released to the public without their knowledge,” the lawyer said. “It is unfortunate that the Clayton County Police Department elected to release this information without arranging to meet with the family first.”
Officials say the bodycam footage was recorded by the cop standing in the back of the officer who killed Calhoun and was the only video released from those badges on site. It is unclear if the officer who shot the man was wearing a bodycam or if it was on.
A spokesperson for the department said if other footage of the shooting exists, it will be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which has now taken over the case.
At the top of the video compilation, it explained how calls came in reporting an “elderly man” armed with a rifle, was roaming the community in his pajamas. Multiple residents in the area said they heard gunshots in the neighborhood, prompting them to call. Four neighbors called saying they saw the man, now identified as Calhoun.
One caller said to the dispatch, “There’s a man in my yard shooting.”
A different caller said, “There’s like a guy laying out in the grass and it appears like he’s holding a rifle.”
The report noted that officers started observing Calhoun around 5:33 a.m., following him for close to ten minutes before one officer “discharged” his firearm and hit the man at 5:52 a.m. The officer wearing the bodycam is heard saying on the footage, “If he’s pointing, light his ass up.”
The viewer does not see Calhoun and what he is doing with his weapon. The video shows after the shooting, the firing officer shouted, “Put the gun down. Put the [expletive] gun down! I will light your ass up!”
This is contrary to what the narrator in the video says. The voice claims the on-site cops gave verbal commands for Calhoun to put down the gun before the shooting, but they were interrupted after he pointed the rifle at them.
The bodycam video does not show the officers in any way trying to speak to the senior.
The edited video censors Calhoun as he lies in the street but highlighted the shotgun, presumably his, and two spent shells near the deceased’s body.
The review says the officers immediately responded to the victim until the ambulance arrived at 6:01 a.m.
“He’s not responsive. He’s fading,” one person is heard saying, as another says, “Check the pulse.”
As the officers administered the care to the man, the recording picks up one voice saying, “Hey, none of y’all talk about what happened, OK?”
Calhoun was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
Last week, Davis questioned the procedure used to detain or deescalate the situation, including why the officers never identified themselves on the dark, rainy morning or turned on their sirens to alert the man of their presence.
“When you’re concerned that there’s a burglar that is approaching your home, you don’t know who’s who and what’s what. It’s a confusing time,” the lawyer said.
Calhoun’s wife Sheryl Calhoun stated someone had thrown a brick into their home’s back window in February, hoping to break in. Police confirmed this act of vandalism to their residence was reported and recorded on Feb. 7.
The wife continued to say her husband called her the day of the shooting, telling her he believed the burglar had returned. She also claimed he used the gun as a walking stick. As a COVID-19 survivor, she said he frequently used it because a lasting side-effect of the virus for him was difficulty walking, which made him prone to falls. This corresponds with the multiple reports of him staggering with the gun.
Fox 5 News reports the wife as saying, “If they had made it known who they were, or he saw it was a police officer, and they had not come at him from behind, he would have [put his gun down], because he’s not a violent person.”
The CCPD said in a statement about the incident, “It is always tragic when an officer has to use force. This incident occurred rapidly, with limited information, in poor lighting conditions, and in heavy rain.”
“Clayton County Police SWAT was not utilized in this incident, as it unfolded so quickly,” the statement said in part, adding, that the department “is responsive to community concerns and will review the entire incident and report their findings as they become available.”
Calhoun will be laid to rest on Saturday, April 16. The lawyer further noted the bereaved family is grieving “this horrific loss.”