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Autopsy reveals man shot by Raleigh police shot eight times

Vigil remembers Raleigh man killed in police shooting

Family, friends and activists mourn Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, 30, who died in a fatal encounter with a Raleigh police officer Saturday night in an officer-involved shooting near New Bern Avenue.
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Family, friends and activists mourn Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, 30, who died in a fatal encounter with a Raleigh police officer Saturday night in an officer-involved shooting near New Bern Avenue.

The 30-year-old man killed by Raleigh Police — whose death prompted a change to the city’s body camera policy — was shot eight times, according to his autopsy released Thursday.

Raleigh Police Senior Officer W.B. Edwards shot and killed Soheil Antonio Mojarrad April 20 outside Overtime Sports Pub in the eastern part of the city.

Police said in April that Edwards shot at Mojarrad as he carried a knife and kept moving toward Edwards, despite repeated commands to stop.

Mojarrad died at the scene, and no alcohol or drugs were detected in his body, according to the autopsy.

The shooting attracted scrutiny from the family and the community, partly because Edwards’ body camera was not turned on.

Mojarrad’s family said in a statement Thursday that the autopsy “confirms what we have known to be true of our beloved Soheil — he was senselessly and unnecessarily killed, at a young age.”

“Although it has been months since Soheil’s passing, it feels like yesterday, and we remain overwhelmed with grief,” according to a statement from the family Thursday. “We continue to cope with the loss of our beautiful, kind-hearted son and brother. 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.”

Mojarrad’s family has said the man struggled with mental illness.

The night of the shooting

On the evening of April 20, Edwards arrived at a nearby Sheetz gas station to refuel his patrol car when he was told by a gas station employee that a man had stolen a customer’s cell phone. Edwards identified Mojarrad, who matched the description of the suspect, a short distance away.

In the span of a minute, Mojarrad “crouched in an aggressive stance” and yelled profanities at Edwards, according to a Raleigh Police Department report on the shooting.

According to the autopsy, Mojarrad was shot eight times in the chest, torso, pelvis and buttocks with a .45 caliber handgun.

The autopsy included Mojarrad’s clothing and possessions as collected evidence, but a knife was not listed.

The Raleigh Police Department directed questions about the shooting and whether the department collected the knife to the State Bureau of Investigations, which is overseeing the case. The SBI did not return The News & Observer’s phone call, text message and email for more information Thursday.

On Friday, the SBI Public Information Director Anjanette Grube said a knife was seized as part of the investigation and the case file has been turned over to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office for review.

A N&O text message and call to the DA’s Office was not returned Friday.

Edwards, a senior officer assigned to the Field Operations Division, was hired in 2000 and remains on administrative paid leave.

Camera policy change

In addition to Edwards’ body camera not being on, no nearby businesses’ security cameras captured the shooting, according to police. Edwards’ vehicle’s dash camera was on but not pointed toward the shooting.

Advocates and friends of Mojarrad called on city leaders to change the police department’s body camera policy after his fatal shooting.

Six days after the shooting, the Raleigh Police Department adjusted its body cam policies to prevent “human error.” The updated policy says body cameras should be “activated as soon as feasible during all contacts involving actual or potential violations of the law.”

Now, as an emergency backup, the cameras will constantly capture video unless an officer turns the camera off. No audio is collected as part of the backup.

Activists also renewed efforts requesting the city create a police oversight board.

Members of the Raleigh Police Accountability Community Taskforce (PACT) and other activists groups and friends of Mojarrad have requested body cameras that automatically turn on when an officer draws her or his weapon.

The autopsy was first reported by ABC11, The News & Observer’s news gathering partner.

Stephanie Lormand interrupts a Raleigh City Council meeting on May 7, after a man was shot and killed by a Raleigh Police officer. People began chanting and asking for police reform.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.
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