Federal officials close review of fatal shooting of Kionte Spencer

Police say, this picture shows Kionte Spencer walking with a BB pistol air gun.
Police say, this picture shows Kionte Spencer walking with a BB pistol air gun. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia announced on Friday that there is not enough evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the Roanoke County Police Officers involved in the fatal shooting of Kionte Spencer on February 26, 2016.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division met with members of Spencer's family on Friday to inform them of this decision.

Federal authorities conducted an independent review of all the information obtained during the state's investigation, which included dashboard cameras from the officers' patrol cars, statements by the officers and independent eyewitnesses, audio recordings, and other physical evidence.

The team of federal prosecutors considered whether the officers violated federal law by willfully using unreasonable force against Spencer.

Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors would be required to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer, or in this case officers, willfully deprived Spencer of a constitutional right. To establish willfulness, federal authorities would be required to show that the officers acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law.

Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.

Evidence showed that on February 26, 2016, at approximately 7:15 p.m., officers responded after a 911 caller reported a man walking on the shoulder of Brambleton Avenue in Roanoke County wearing a mask and backpack and carrying a firearm, which the caller said "appeared to be a Glock." The caller further stated that the man was waving the gun around and had pointed it at passing cars, including the car driven by the caller.

After the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia made its announcement, The ACLU of Virginia released this statement:

The ACLU of Virginia continues to have serious concerns about the actions of still-unnamed officers in the killing of Kionte Spencer. We are disappointed in the U.S. Attorney's decision not to proceed with charges related to this tragic event, and will continue to pursue other options to seek justice for Kionte."