Boone County’s top prosecutor said Wednesday that explaining why the fatal November shooting of a community activist was justified was in the public interest.
“This is a case of general public interest, so I thought it was in the best interest of the public and the people involved for me to go ahead and explain why the use of force by Deonte Gainwell was justified,” Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said in an interview with ABC 17 News.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department found Ahmonta Harris, 26, was killed Nov. 24 by a gunshot as he broke into a home on Limoges Drive. The department’s investigation showed Harris was armed with a handgun when he entered a residence to commit a robbery and threatened 20-year-old Gainwell. Gainwell was found dead Thursday from gunshot wounds, but law enforcement agencies have not said whether the cases are related.
Knight on Wednesday said Gainwell, who shot and killed Harris, did not commit a crime because Harris was robbing him at the time. The sheriff’s department had asked Knight to review the case for potential criminal charges.
Knight’s review found that Harris entered Gainwell’s bedroom through an open window, pointed a gun at him and demanded money. BCSD found Harris was wearing a black cloth mask around his neck, a black sweatshirt, black sweatpants, red cotton gloves and black tennis shoes at the time of the attempted robbery.
Knight said there was no contact between the two men before the fatal shooting.
“Cellphone records were examined, Facebook records were examined,” Knight said. “Witnesses were talked to and there’s no credible information whatsoever that these individuals had some type of a voluntary meeting scheduled.”
An autopsy revealed Harris died from gunshot wounds to the head.
Knight said the evidence pointed to one conclusion.
“We started with Deonte Gainwell’s statement, where he said that he shot Ahmonta Harris after he came inside his residence and pointed this hand gun at him, demanding money,” Knight said. “A robbery. But there was other evidence in this case that supported Deonte Gainwell’s statement.”
The evidence includes shoe marks on the side of Gainwell’s home as if someone had scaled the outside wall to get in. A gun found at the scene was registered to Harris, according to Knight’s report.
During the investigation, BCSD found Harris had parked his car far enough away at the residence on Limoges Drive that no one at the residence would be able to see the vehicle. BCSD also examined the contents of Harris’ phone and Gainwell’s phone after investigators received information from community members that Harris was at the residence to sell Gainwell concert tickets. There was no evidence the two men had any sort of communication through their phone numbers or through Facebook, the review said.
Harris’ phone had notes titled “People Buying Concert Tickets,” and Gainwell’s name did not appear on the list, according to Knight’s review.
Knight’s review found that Gainwell did not commit a crime as he was acting in self defense.
However, friends of Harris question the investigation, saying some evidence was ignored, such as a Snapchat video of the shooting’s aftermath. The sheriff’s department has said it conducted a thorough investigation.