Slain man's family: 'It shouldn't have happened' - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Slain man's family: 'It shouldn't have happened'

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Jonathan Lee Cunningham Jonathan Lee Cunningham
Jonathan Lee Cunningham Jonathan Lee Cunningham
Jonathan Lee Cunningham Jonathan Lee Cunningham
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Wake County Sheriffs Office has launched an internal investigation, and the SBI is investigating, after a mentally ill man was shot and killed by deputies Sunday.  

Jonathan Lee Cunningham, 35, is accused of stealing a patrol car he was being transported in, and leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase before being shot and killed.Cunningham was sitting in the front seat, uncuffed.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said his office has opened an investigation into whether patients like Cunningham should be unrestrained.

On Monday, Cunningham's stepmother, Gloria Cunningham, described Jon as "an extremely generous boy."

"Extremely intelligent. We loved him very much," she said.

She said the shooting, "shouldn't have happened."

The family declined to discuss Cunningham's mental illness or what he suffered from.

Harrison said Cunningham got into an altercation with the sheriff's deputy who was transporting him from Raleigh to Winston-Salem Sunday morning.

Cunningham had been involuntary committed to the Wake Crisis Center and was being transferred to Old Vineyard in the Triad.

Cunningham was sitting unrestrained in the front passenger seat and began to fight Deputy Jeremy Pittman. The altercation then continued outside of the car on I-440 near Lake Boone Trail.

According to Harrison, Pittman slipped in the mud during the fight, allowing Cunningham to escape with Pittman's vehicle.

Cunningham was seen driving the stolen vehicle near the N.C. State Fairgrounds later in the morning. Law enforcement from the Raleigh Police Department and the Wake County Sheriff's Office chased him on I-40 West and then onto I-540.

After a chase reaching speeds up to 80 miles per hour, Cunningham lost control of the vehicle and crashed near the Leesville Road exit of I-540. Cunningham then ran from the scene of the accident, Harrison said.

After running approximately 300 yards, Cunningham fought with two members of the Wake County Sheriff's Office, Harrison said.

Shots were fired by Wake County deputies, and Cunningham was pronounced dead at the scene.

There is no indication Cunningham was armed.

Wake County Deputies Matthew Johnson and Dusty Mullen have been put on administrative duty following the shooting.

A close friend of Cunningham told WNCN, family members tried to get him to treatment, but he would grab the steering wheel or try to escape. That's when they got police involved. The friend says Garner Police transported Cunningham to the crisis center in Raleigh, in the back of a patrol car, unlike when Wake County allowed him in the front, for the later trip.

Gloria Cunningham said funeral arrangements are currently being made.

Jonathan Carlson

Jonathan is an investigative reporter and anchor with over a decade of experience. Jonathan has broken stories that have resulted in local and statewide change. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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