Charleston police discharged a taser that was “ineffective” moments before shooting a man on the city’s West Side last month, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court.
Police shot Denaul Dickerson, 33, on April 30 after he made a “lunging movement” toward officers while wielding two knives, according to the complaint. Dickerson was a suspect in an alleged stabbing attempt.
On police body camera footage released by the city hours after the encounter, officers can be heard repeatedly asking if anyone at the scene had a taser.
“We ain’t got a taser. Nobody here’s got a taser,” an officer can be hear responding.
During a news conference later that day, Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt said an officer with a taser neared the area before shots were fired.
“As the officer with the taser begins to close distance to deploy the taser,” Hunt said in describing the body camera footage, “you will see Mr. Dickerson take an aggressive stance and no longer from moving away from officers, but he turns to face. When he takes a lunging movement toward our police officers, two officers fire upon Mr. Dickerson.”
According to the complaint, filed May 3 by Detective D.L. Williams, an officer on scene attempted to subdue Dickerson with a taser after Dickerson lunged toward him with knives in both hands, but one of the probes discharged from the device struck Dickerson’s backpack. Two other officers then proceeded to fire five rounds, striking Dickerson twice, the complaint reads.
Reached via text message Wednesday, Hunt declined to offer any additional details or clarify the chain of events surrounding the shooting.
Dickerson, who is Black, has been charged with attempted malicious assault on a law enforcement officer. He remains at South Central Regional Jail.
On the day of the incident, Hunt conveyed that the department’s inability to quickly locate and use a taser came from the officers’ inability to receive proper training and/or certification, an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not every officer in the city of Charleston is issued a taser,” Hunt said at a news conference last month. “Those tasers do require retraining [and] recertification. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic really hampered us getting instructors here to recertify our officers. That has already been addressed and is already in the works.”
Three days after the incident, Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin wrote a letter to Hunt, stressing the importance of training police officers in de-escalation techniques and not being reliant on lethal force.
In the letter, she requested the department put forth a plan of action for improvement, specifically asking for mandatory taser training and certification for officers, an inventory of the force’s tasers, as well as additional training in using de-escalation tactics and non-lethal force.
Hunt said he plans to provide a response to the mayor by June 1, which would provide an update on the work done within the department’s training division.