DA: NC officer won’t face charges in fatal auto lot shooting
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina police officer who authorities said fatally shot a man during a suspected car theft earlier this year won’t be prosecuted, a local district attorney announced Wednesday, saying the officer was legally justified in firing.
Cabarrus County District Attorney Roxann Vaneekhoven announced that Timothy Larson, who no longer works for the Concord Police Department, will not face criminal charges in the death of Brandon Combs in an auto dealership on Feb. 13, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Combs, 29, of Gastonia, was struck by gunfire while he sat behind the wheel of Larson’s police SUV, according to attorneys. Combs had jumped into the vehicle after Larson had discovered him trying to steal a nearby pickup truck, the newspaper reported.
Vaneekhoven said in a statement that the evidence shows Larson “did not utilize excessive force when he fired his weapon at a fully revved police SUV that was pointed at him a few feet way, that Brandon Combs was attempting to steal.”
Larson was fired from the department in May. Police Chief Gary Gacek cited Larson for insubordination in his termination letter for refusing to answer questions after the shooting and for giving misleading or untrue answers in other instances.
Combs’ mother, Virginia Tayara, filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month accusing the officer of breaking the law when he shot her son. Attorneys for Combs’ family have seen video generated from Larson’s body-worn camera.
The mother’s attorneys said Wednesday that they were disappointed but not surprised by the district attorney’s decision, saying “Vaneekhoven thinks that kind of brutality, disregard for human life and contempt for the rule of law is just fine if you wear a badge.”
In explaining her decision, Vaneekhoven cited several factors, including that Combs ignored multiple commands from Larson to get out of the truck and failed to show his hands. A police rifle in the SUV was within the reach of Combs, she said, and Combs had revved the vehicle just before Larson opened fire.
The mother’s lawsuit says that Larson fired five shots through the windshield of the vehicle. He called in the shooting to the department dispatchers, then fired again, the suit alleges.
Vaneekhoven received the findings of a State Bureau of Investigation review of the shooting in June.