CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg police released surveillance footage of a deadly officer-involved shooting that occurred in April 2016 in west Charlotte.
The shooting happened at the 7-Eleven on Little Rock Road near Tuckaseegee Road around 3 a.m. on April 19. Police were initially called to the area for a man who was attempting suicide.
CMPD says when they arrived, they tried to convince the man, identified as 41-year-old Sylasone Ackhavong, to put his gun down. He was reportedly "acting irrationally" and was waving the gun around in the parking lot of the convenience store. Negotiators then tried to convince Ackhavong to drop the gun, police say.
The standoff lasted over an hour, officials said. That's when Ackhavong reportedly pointed his gun at officers and SWAT officers shot him, Chief Kerr Putney said.
Ackhavong was pronounced dead while being taken to the hospital by EMS, police said. Officers said Ackhavong was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time he was fatally shot.
"At some point during the conversation the subject swung his arm forward, raising the gun and pointing it at one of our officers," said Chief Putney. "Two of our SWAT officers fired rounds striking the subject."
The two members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department SWAT team were identified as Officer Olin Lester and Officer Derek Rud.
On Thursday, CMPD announced that they petitioned the court to release the dash-cam and body-worn camera video of the incident. Four surveillance videos that captured the shooting were released.
**WARNING: The following videos are unedited and very graphic in nature. They may not be suitable for all viewers**
Click here to view dashcam video released by CMPD (WARNING: The content is very graphic in nature. Discretion is advised.)
Click here to view store surveillance footage released by CMPD (WARNING: The content is very graphic in nature. Discretion is advised.)
Putney said the police department responded to over 12,000 mental illness calls last year, resulting in 1,000 calls a month.
"Our problem is when it comes to the split second of you're trying to survive an encounter all that training goes out the window because we lose the opportunity that we want to deescalate," Putney said. "There lies our struggle."
Putney said the department has diverted funds for mental health since the 1980s. "And now we're paying the price," he said.
"We're the first responders and unfortunately we're put in positions where lives are put at risk and the use of force, lethal force in particular, is justified and unfortunately is the only option to resolve some of these situations," he said.
Putney said all protocols were followed, but going forward he hopes it does not have to come down to death when responding to calls involving mental illness.
He now requires all his sworn officers to undergo an eight-hour training course regarding mental aid. He is trying to get more officers trained in Crisis Intervention.
He adds that the negotiator in the Ackhavong case was CIT trained.
Putney says they are also working closely with Mecklenburg County's mental health division.
"To try to make sure we can encourage them to continue counseling or medication that they need to assist them, unfortunately we can't compel people," Chief Putney said.
Despite their additional attention to these types of calls, he says some scenarios still require use of force for the safety of officers and the community.
"Our problem is when it comes to a split-second of you trying to survive an encounter all that training goes out of the window because we lost that opportunity that we want to deescalate," Putney said.
The State Bureau of Investigations managed the investigation.
Officers Lester and Rud were placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, which is standard procedure. According to former District Attorney Andrew Murray, the officers acted lawfully in using deadly force against Ackhavong.