Killing but no homicide

Not every Charlotte killing is counted as a homicide. As the city’s official homicide count inches toward 100 for 2019, learn how CMPD decides.

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How many people in Charlotte have died by homicide this year?

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department puts the count at 97, but that number paints an incomplete picture.

At least 11 others were killed this year in cases where authorities declined to press charges, ruling the killings to be legally justified.

Why it matters: When the city’s homicide rate is tied to criminal prosecutions, the count undercounts the true level of deadly violence in Charlotte.

Our city hasn’t seen 100 homicides since 1993, when the crack cocaine epidemic had rival gangs battling for turf. But if current trends hold, the city may again see its official homicide count reach triple digits.

Criminal vs justified: North Carolina law permits the killing of a human if the killing is done in self-defense or in defense of another innocent person. When deciding whether a killing is legally justified, CMPD follows a prescribed procedure, outlined in a recent email.

  • Detectives investigate to determine whether a crime was committee, and if so, what crime (murder, voluntary manslaughter, etc.).
  • If a crime has occurred, the department seeks warrants.
  • If evidence indicates that the killing is not criminal, detectives will not seek charges.
  • The Mecklenburg County district attorney’s office reviews the investigation as an “additional layer of review.”

“Civilians are legally justified to use deadly force when they perceive an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to themselves or a third party,” the department said in the statement. “They do not have a duty to retreat if they are acting in an otherwise lawful manner.”

The bottom line: The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines homicide more simply: “a killing of one human being by another.”

Read the rest of today’s Morning Brew.

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