The Moore County District Attorney's Office has announced it will not seek criminal charges against the state trooper who initiated a deadly PIT maneuver last year on U.S. 1.
In a news release issued Thursday, the District Attorney's Office said it had reviewed "the circumstances surrounding the forced vehicle stop" and determined that Sgt. James Stahl of the state Highway Patrol "did not use excessive force" when he struck Shonquell Barrett's car on June 29.
Stahl performed the PIT maneuver after Barrett fled from a police checkpoint on Morganton Road, leading authorities on a 10-minute chase that reached speeds of 82 mph. The maneuver caused Barrett, 22, to lose control of his vehicle, which careened into a utility pole before hitting a tree in front of a home near Joseph Road.
The news release said Stahl tried unsuccessfully to administer CPR to Barrett, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the District Attorney's Office, investigators seized gun ammunition, narcotics, two cell phones and $1,978 in cash while searching the wrecked vehicle. Three days later, a Glock .40 pistol was found in the grass at the intersection where the chase began.
"Additional investigation revealed that the owner of the (gun) gave it to Barrett two to three weeks prior to this incident," the release said, adding that Barrett was a “major contributor” of DNA found during tests on the firearm.
Barrett was traveling in a Honda Civic registered to his mother, Charlene Ross. After her son's death, Ross advocated for a law banning PIT maneuvers and organized a demonstration calling for an end to the practice.
The demonstration was held July 17 in front of the state Division of Motor Vehicles building, located on the same highway where Barrett died. Protestors wore shirts displaying a photograph of Barrett.
”No more dead boys,” they chanted.
Short for "Precision Immobilization Technique," the PIT maneuver is typically used as a last resort in police chases. The technique allows the driver of a police vehicle to force a fleeing suspect to lose control of their vehicle by ramming the suspect’s bumper.
The District Attorney’s Office said state troopers were unable to place “stop sticks,” devices used to puncture the tires of fleeing vehicles, in the road to impede Barrett’s car. He was rapidly approaching the commercial districts of Aberdeen and Southern Pines when Stahl initiated the PIT maneuver.
“These portions of U.S. 1 contain many restaurants and businesses, and are heavily traveled, especially on a Friday night,” the release said. “There is also a significant pedestrian presence in the commercial district.”
In interviews with The Pilot and other news outlets, Ross said she was on the phone with her son during the chase. She has said Barrett was preparing to pull over when his vehicle was struck.
The District Attorney's Office said a formal interview had been arranged between Ross and the State Bureau of Investigation, but the meeting was canceled by Ross' attorney.
A graduate of Pinecrest High School, Barrett was named Youth of the Year in 2013 by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sandhills. He is the grandson of Ulysses Barrett, the longtime mayor of Taylortown.
In April 2017, Shonquell Barrett was charged with felony maintaining a dwelling for the storage of a controlled substance and other offenses after Moore County Sheriff’s deputies carried out a search warrant at his mother's home in the 200 block of Meadowfield Circle in Aberdeen.
The Pilot obtained dashboard camera footage of the chase through a court petition in September. The eight-hour video from Stahl's camera, which was filmed over the course of his shift, shows the vehicles weaving through traffic on local roads and cutting across parking lots.
Following is a condensed version of the video.