The Charlotte Observer
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on Tuesday released body camera footage of the minutes leading up to and the exchange of gunfire between police and a 60-year-old woman in her south Charlotte home last August.
The woman, Brenda Donahue, was shot and killed by a CMPD officer. The video captures the moment a CMPD officer was shot by Donahue, believed to have been saved when the bullet lodged in camera equipment the officer was wearing on her chest.
Police were at Donahue’s house to serve an involuntary commitment order. Officials, in a video statement also released Tuesday, said they were not told beforehand that Donahue had a gun.
Involuntary commitment orders are executed by police officers, under a judge’s order, when a person in mental health distress is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Donahue fired at three officers — striking one in the chest — on Aug. 19. She died six days later in the hospital.
The shooting unfolded just after 5:30 p.m. at a home in the 8900 block of St. Croix Lane, near Four Mile Creek Road in the Raintree community, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.
The footage shows police officers speaking with a male resident of the home for about two minutes while standing outside the home. The man says Donahue is asleep and officers explain that she must come with them whether willingly or in handcuffs.
The male resident leads them inside and shows them Donahue’s room. In the video, the door appears closed and several officers are seen in a narrow set of stairs leading to the room, first attempting to talk to Donahue through the door.
An officer — the first to enter the home and the officer standing closest to Donahue’s bedroom door — says “It’s the police, ma’am. Can you open up the door?” Donahue is heard in the video replying she will not open the door, followed immediately with gunfire through the door.
The officers had been inside the home attempting to make contact with Donahue for less than 15 seconds, the footage shows.
The first shot struck one officer in the chest and knocked off her body camera. The officers were not injured, police have said.
The officers rushed back down the stairs and took cover. Inaudible shouting is heard in the video along with additional shots, which police say again came from Donahue.
Roughly 30 to 40 seconds after the first shot, Donahue left the room with her gun and looked over the railing and Officer Brandon Graham shot at her, police officials say.
That moment is not seen in body-worn camera footage released Tuesday. In the video, Graham is heard telling someone else right after that Donahue was holding the gun, pointed in his direction over the stair railing.
The male resident tried to re-enter the home after he heard the gunshots and police yelled for him to stay outside.
“Did you shoot her?” the man yells at Officer Graham.
“She had her gun pointed at me, get outside sir, now!” Graham replies.
Donahue was shot in the head and officers attempted to give her medical aid until Medic arrived, the video shows. Footage shows Donahue bleeding badly and lying motionless near the doorway of her bedroom after being shot.
In the video statement accompanying the release of video Tuesday, Sgt. Steven Winterhalter of CMPD said Donahue was actively a threat to the police officers after shooting at them through the bedroom door then exiting the room holding the gun. Winterhalter said police followed training steps by not firing back immediately and running to cover before Donahue emerged from the room.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigated the shooting, CMPD said. Now that SBI’s investigation is complete, the use of force and deadly shooting is still under review by the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office.
CMPD officers were involved in another shooting on Saturday where they shot a man while trying to serve another involuntary commitment order. Before trying to take the man into custody, officers received multiple calls about a domestic disturbance at the home in the2700 block of Billings Park Drive.They arrived and saw a man shooting towards the back of the house, the Observer previously reported.
Officers shot at the man and rendered aid to the subject of the involuntary commitment papers and another person in the home, officials said Saturday.
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