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No charges in Pineville police shooting of unarmed man near Charlotte Food Lion

A still from police body camera showed Dennis Bodden in the moments before he was fatally shot by Pineville Police Sergeant Adam Roberts.M
Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office
A still from police body camera showed Dennis Bodden in the moments before he was fatally shot by Pineville Police Sgt. Adam Roberts.

No charges will be filed against the white Pineville police sergeant who shot and killed Dennis Bodden outside of his apartment. Bodden was unarmed.

Bodden had been accused of shoplifting $84 worth of wine and produce from a south Charlotte Food Lion near where the officer was working off-duty as security. The officer followed Bodden from the Food Lion, used a Taser on him in the median of a road, then fatally shot him after a confrontation that included Bodden biting him on the arm.

In announcing his decision on Tuesday, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said the actions of Pineville Police Sgt. Adam Roberts on May 14, 2024, would likely withstand scrutiny from a jury.

"While the circumstances surrounding his death are especially jarring, there is no likelihood that twelve jurors would unanimously agree that the actions of Sgt. Roberts, in firing his gun, constituted a violation of criminal law," Merriweather wrote.

The district attorney, in describing the officer's actions, also wrote that "the appropriateness of Sgt. Roberts’ tactics may be ripe for other authorities to evaluate," but said that such an evaluation was beyond the scope of his review.

In North Carolina, police are legally justified to use deadly force if they have an "objectively reasonable" fear of death or serious injury to themselves or others.

It's the second police shooting involving Roberts, the Pineville police sergeant, who in 2020 was cleared of shooting and injuring a Black man who said he was following police commands to drop his gun on a Pineville sidewalk.

"We support and respect the rigorous due process involved in situations such as this from a third-party investigative body," the Pineville Police Department said in a statement. "Our deepest condolences continue to be extended towards the entire Bodden family during this extremely difficult time."

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Bodden's mother, Cleopatra Bodden, said the family intends to file a civil suit against Pineville police. She thinks the shooting was influenced by race.

"I am angry. I am angry at the DA. I'm angry at Pineville Police Department. I am angry at Mecklenburg County for that way that they are doing this," she said. "If my son was a white man, he would be living today. He was shot down because he was a Black man."

Cleopatra Bodden in New York with her son, Dennis Bodden, who was killed by a Pineville police sargent
Cleopatra Bodden
Cleopatra Bodden in New York with her son, Dennis Bodden, who was killed by a Pineville police sergeant on May 14, 2024.

The shooting unfolded near a south Charlotte Food Lion

Bodden was a New York state attorney who represented people with mental disabilities. He was also a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in biochemistry and a graduate of the Cardozo School of Law.

His mental health began to deteriorate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his mother and aunt. In 2021, he was diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia and moved to Charlotte for warmer weather.

On May 14, Pineville Police Sgt. Adam Roberts was working in uniform off-duty at the McMullen Creek Shopping Center when police were called about a man shoplifting from the nearby Food Lion on Johnston Road.

According to police, Bodden was a "chronic" shoplifting suspect at the Johnston Road Food Lion, and had felony warrants for breaking and entering and stealing from the grocery store.

Roberts picked up the call and drove to the Food Lion, where he saw Bodden in a yellow raincoat walking through the parking lot with a bag of groceries.

According to the district attorney's office, Roberts stepped out of his car and twice said, "Stop, police," at a moderate volume. Bodden was wearing headphones under his raincoat hood, and didn't respond.

The police video showed Roberts about to "lay hands" on Bodden, when Bodden turned around and let out a "startled yell." The report noted Bodden "appear[ed] to have been frightened by Sgt. Roberts’ presence." Roberts then drew his Taser and instructed Bodden to get on the ground.

Instead, Bodden walked away, and Roberts told dispatchers on his radio that Bodden "tried to push off on me." The district attorney noted that the bodycam video "shows no substantial contact between the decedent and Sgt. Roberts up to this point."

The officer used a Taser on Bodden in the median of Johnston Road

Bodden kept walking along Johnston Road as Roberts followed, pulling him back from walking into the road and telling him, "Do not walk into traffic." Bodden responded, "Sorry?" and then crossed two lanes of Johnston Road with Roberts still following.

Once in the median, Roberts fired his Taser at Bodden twice and the two collapsed to the ground, where Bodden bit Roberts on his arm. After the struggle, Bodden abandoned his groceries and crossed the remaining two lanes toward the Berkshire Place Apartments, where his family said he lived alone.

Another officer, Randall Down, arrived at the apartment's parking lot, where Roberts pushed Bodden's shoulder with one hand, saying, "You ain't getting away, bro." Both men pushed each other, and Bodden began to punch Roberts with clenched fists.

On police body camera, the report says Bodden then charged at Down, who unsuccessfully fired his Taser. Bodden grabbed Down's radio and pulled the cord taut.

During this struggle, Roberts drew his firearm. Bodden is seen on the police body camera reaching for the weapon before Roberts fires three times, killing Bodden.

Roberts told investigators he had "never been so scared in his life" and that he believed Bodden was trying to grab his gun to kill him and then kill Officer Down.

When questioned about why he didn't draw his own firearm, Down told investigators that he didn't think the situation warranted it.

"When asked why he didn’t draw his firearm, Officer Down explained that what he encountered from the decedent was not 'at the level of deadly force' although Officer Down explained that these events happened very quickly," the district attorney report said.

Investigators also interviewed a man who saw the struggle. He told police that Roberts "had no other choice" but to shoot, in his opinion.

Dennis Bodden poses with family. Bodden was killed by a Pineville police sergeant on May 14, 2024.
Cleopatra Bodden
Dennis Bodden poses with family. Bodden was killed by a Pineville police sergeant on May 14, 2024.

Same police sergeant involved in 2020 police shooting

Sgt. Roberts has been with the Pineville Police Department for ten years, according to the Mecklenburg County district attorney.

He was previously cleared of shooting and injuring a Black man, Timothy Caraway, in 2020, who said he was following police commands to drop his gun while walking on North Polk Street in Pineville.

In Caraway's lawsuit against the department, he claimed he was walking to his grandmother's house and was bewildered when police began swarming him demanding he drop his weapon.

Police said they were contacted by a driver who called 911 to report a Black man with dreadlocks pointing a gun as he walked along the road.

In that case, Roberts and another officer, Jamon Griffin, fired 12 shots at Caraway during a 3.5-second span, according to The Charlotte Observer.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
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