Raleigh officer involved in shooting death of Soheil Mojarrad will not face charges, DA says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County District Attorney said Wednesday the officer involved in the April shooting death of a 30-year-old Raleigh man will not face criminal charges.

Soheil Antonio Mojarrad was shot and killed by Officer W.B. Edwards outside Overtime Sports Pub on April 20 after a report that he was trespassing.

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Officer Edwards "reasonably believed that his life was endangered when Mr. Mojarrad repeatedly refused to follow commands to drop the knife, continued to yell at Officer Edwards in a threatening manner and moved towards Officer Edwards."

Freeman added the case is now closed.

The shooting sparked a cry for transparency, since Edwards was wearing a body camera at the time but it was not turned on. Police ultimately determined that the shooting was not captured on any cameras.

Days after activists showed up to a city council meeting in May, Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown sent a memo saying the department was taking action to prevent "the human error of not turning the camera on."

The department decided to alter the cameras to have them always passively recording video, with no audio, even if an officer fails to turn it on.

Before the shooting

The Raleigh police 5-day report alleged that Mojarrad held a knife in a threatening manner and repeatedly advanced toward the officer before he was shot.

According to the 5-day report, employees of the Sheetz gas station located at 5200 New Bern Avenue called 911 to report that an individual who had been asked to leave the business had returned. At about the same time, Edwards pulled into the parking lot of the gas station to put fuel in his patrol vehicle.

While he was at the pump, a clerk and customer approached him to tell him about an individual who stole a customer's cellphone and left. They provided a description of the person and Officer Edwards got into his patrol car and drove around the shopping center looking for someone matching that description.

As he was driving, he located the person believed to be the individual that was described to him sitting on a bench outside of one of the businesses.

As Officer Edwards turned to get a better look, police say the person -- later identified as Mojarrad -- got up and started walking away.

The shooting

Officer Edwards then got out of his patrol vehicle and told Mojarrad to stop. "The individual ignored Officer Edwards and continued to walk away," the report said.

When Officer Edwards continued to give him commands to stop, the report said Mojarrad turned around and began screaming obscenities at the officer while waving his hands around.

"Officer Edwards tried to calm him down and told him he just needed to speak with him," the report said. "Mr. Mojarrad continued to scream at Officer Edwards, who was standing less than twenty feet away."

At that point, Mojarrad reached into his pocket and Officer Edwards drew his gun and told Mojarrad to stop, thinking he was grabbing a gun.

The report said Mojarrad then "pulled a folding knife from his pants pocket and flicked it open as he raised it to head level."

"At the same time, he crouched in an aggressive stance, placed one foot behind him and angled his body at Officer Edwards, all while holding the knife in a threatening manner, and screaming profanity at Officer Edwards," the report said. "Officer Edwards commanded Mr. Mojarrad to stop and drop the knife."

Police say an "encounter" ensued, which lasted less than one minute, in which "Mojarrad repeatedly advanced towards Officer Edwards, despite numerous commands to stop and drop the knife."

According to the report, Officer Edwards "fired his service weapon" at Mojarrad "each time he advanced." Mojarrad eventually fell to the ground and the officer called EMS. The 30-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS.

Mojarrad's past

Mojarrad had a rocky past that included mental-health issues and previous confrontations with law enforcement officers.

ABC11 found several charges on Mojarrad's record dating back a decade and in two cases, he was accused of assaulting an officer.

In 2018, according to a citation, Mojarrad kicked a Cary police officer in the neck. That officer wrote in the comment section he was "more interested in treatment than conviction" and thinks Mojarrad "needs help."

In January, Mojarraad was accused of punching a WakeMed police officer with a closed fist.

Family's response

Siavash, Mojarraad's brother, said he cared about everyone.

"He was very focused on happiness and having a good time with people," he said. "He cared about everyone, there was not a drop of prejudice in him. No one was a stranger to him. Everyone was someone he cared about even if it was the first minute he met you."

Advocates wondered whether there was another way to deal with a man with known mental illness. His family said he was hit by a pickup in Asheville seven years ago and suffered brain trauma from that to compound with what he was already battling with.

The family issued the following statement Thursday: "Although it has been months since Soheil's passing, it feels like yesterday, and we remain overwhelmed with grief. We continue to cope with the loss of our beautiful, kind hearted son and brother. The autopsy confirms what we have known to be true of our beloved Soheil - he was senselessly and unnecessarily killed, at a young age. We are grateful for the continued support we have received. We will fight for justice for Soheil, in honor of his memory and to help others. We don't want any other innocent soul suffering from mental illness killed like Soheil was."

The autopsy

The autopsy documented a total of eight gunshot wounds: a perforating gunshot wound of the right lateral chest, a penetrating gunshot wound of the chest, a penetrating gunshot wound of the torso, a penetrating gunshot wound of the pelvis, a perforating gunshot wound of the right buttock, a perforating gunshot wound of the right thigh, a deep graze wound of the right upper arm, and a superficial graze wound of the left buttock.

Toxicological testing detected nicotine and caffeine; no alcohol or common drugs of abuse were detected.

According to the autopsy, "death was pronounced at the scene without attempted medical intervention."

Civil suit

While the district attorney is declining to prosecute, the legal fight may not be over. The Mojorrad family attorney, Cate Edwards, said her firm will likely proceed with a civil lawsuit against the Raleigh Police Department and Officer Edwards.

"We'll do our own independent investigation and we have some forensic folks that are going to take a look at all the evidence," Edwards said.

Mojorrad's brother, Siavash, added, "I think he's worth remembering that he was not just a statistic or something on the news. But, he was a person."

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