No charges against deputies in fatal Wake County shooting

The mentally ill patient crashed a patrol car on I-540. (Image courtesy Chris Delancey)

November 25, 2013 5:06:00 PM PST
The Wake County district attorney will not pursue charges against two sheriff deputies who shot and killed a mentally ill man in March.

Johnathan Lee Cunningham, 35, was being taken to a mental hospital in Winston-Salem when he fought with Wake County Deputy Sheriff Jeremy Pittman and got behind the wheel of the cruiser.

Officials said Cunningham tried to overpower Pittman while driving, so Pittman pulled off onto the side of the road. Cunningham proceeded to get out of the car and Pittman followed him. A struggle ensued and the deputy slipped in mud, allowing Cunningham to jump in the driver's seat and take off in the patrol car.

At the deputy's discretion, Cunningham had not been handcuffed and was riding in the front seat.

Law enforcement spotted the car near the N.C. State Fairgrounds and they tried to get him to stop. When he didn't, deputies followed the car down Interstate 40 westbound and then onto I-540 eastbound.

Several organizations responded to the chase, which was in excess of 80 mph. Officials said they used stop sticks, but they did not work.

Shortly after passing Glenwood Avenue, Cunningham lost control of the vehicle and crashed off the side of the road. He fled into the woods on foot where he was overtaken. After fighting and resisting officers, Cunningham was shot. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

District Attorney Colon Willoughby says he didn't file charges because the SBI report showed that the use of force was justified.

Officials never said who fired the shot that killed Cunningham -- Deputy Matthew Johnson or Deputy Dusty Mullen.

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