KENLY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A former Kenly police officer pleaded guilty to assault in the 2016 death of a suspect that led him on a car chase through Johnston and Wilson counties.
According to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, while on duty then-Officer Jesse Santifort fired his TASER at Alexander Thompson after the chase, hitting him in the chest. Santifort then fired the weapon three more times.
Though Santifort initially reported that Thompson crashed his pick up truck and ran away before he deployed the TASER, he later told the State Bureau of Investigation that Thompson lunged at him. However, two witnesses said Thompson never left his vehicle and had both of his hands in the air when Santifort fired the stun gun.
Prosecutors said Thompson wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse when another officer arrived on the scene. He was taken to the hospital where he died three days later, and an autopsy confirmed his death was related to the electroshock weapon.
In September 2016, a grand jury indicted Santifort on an involuntary man slaughter charge.
According to a press release from the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys sent October 6, 2020, Santifort has now pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault. He also surrendered his law enforcement certification.
"The resolution of this case accomplished the two things most important to Mr. Thompson's family. The defendant took responsibility for his actions and he will be barred from acting as a law enforcement officer," Kimberly Overton Spahos, chief resource prosecutor for the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, said in a written statement. "We hope today will begin a time of healing, peace and closure for Mr. Thompson's family."
Thompson left behind three children.