UPDATED (3/30, 6:37 p.m.): The story was updated to include a response from attorney’s representing Crenshaw’s family.
UPDATED (3/31: 10:09 a.m.): This was story updated to include the fact that the car Crenshaw was driving was stolen with added quotes.
On Thursday afternoon, Guilford County’s District Attorney stated that they would not seek charges against the Greensboro police officer who shot and killed Nasanto Crenshaw in 2022.
The decision by District Attorney Avery Crump comes after she reviewed dash camera and body-worn camera footage and concluded that officer ML Sletten, whose name had not been released to the public prior to Thursday, was justified in his use of deadly force. However, there are conflicting reports about whether or not Officer Sletten was in danger when he shot and killed Crenshaw.
As reported by TCB in the past, 17-year-old Nasanto Crenshaw was shot and killed in Greensboro on Aug. 21, 2022, after attempting to drive away from Officer Sletten during a traffic stop.
According to a federal civil lawsuit filed in early March by Wakita Doriety, Crenshaw’s mother, her son was attempting to drive away from the officer’s patrol car when he side swiped Sletten’s car. Then, Sletten gets out of his car and commands Crenshaw to “get on the ground.” In response, the lawsuit states that Crenshaw then turned the wheel of his car to the left as he proceeded out of the parking space, away from the officer and the patrol vehicle. The suit states that at no time was the officer in any imminent threat of harm.
However, the district attorney’s multi-page decision states a different story. After getting out of his car, Crump states that Sletten “walked to and around the rear of his patrol car” and “gave a final loud verbal command of ‘stop!’ It is at that moment the Nissan began to accelerate toward Cpl. Sletten whereupon he discharged his duty weapon three times striking the driver, Nasanto Antonio Crenshaw, three times.”
The main difference in the two narratives hinges on whether or not Crenshaw turned away from or towards Sletten in his attempt to flee. The letter released by DA Crump includes information gathered from an interview with Officer Sletten.
“Cpl. Sletten said that he fired his weapon when the Nissan was about 5 to 8 feet distance from him, and it appeared the driver was driving straight at him,” the letter reads. “Cpl. Sletten stated that he felt he had no other choice because he had nowhere to go. Cpl. Sletten stated that this all occurred in a matter of seconds.”
According to Sletten, he pulled the car that Crenshaw was driving over because “the 2018 Nissan was behind him driving with its high beams on, thus blinding him and other cars traveling in the opposite direction. Cpl. Sletten pulled over to let the Nissan pass him. Cpl. Sletten said that the driver of the Nissan slowed down to avoid passing him but did eventually. Cpl. Sletten stated that he then got behind the Nissan. Cpl. Sletten said then the vehicle changed lanes several times. Cpl. Sletten said he switched lanes as well.”
After the car was pulled over, it was determined that it had been stolen.
During the press conference for the federal lawsuit, attorney Harry Daniels addressed the issue of the car being stolen.
“First of all, it doesn’t matter if it was a stolen car or not,” Daniels said. “Because a stolen car is not a death warrant. It’s a great question but it does not matter…. But let me be very clear, a badge… does not authorize you to be the judge, jury and executioner.”
Crump explains her reasoning for the lack of prosecution in her letter.
“Criminal charges are appropriate when it appears that there is both probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, and when it appears that the evidence of that crime is sufficiently strong to afford the State some reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction at trial,” Crump writes. “Under these circumstances, wherein mere seconds elapsed from the moment Nasanto Antonio Crenshaw, having struck the patrol car of Cpl. Sletton, placed the Nissan in drive and began to accelerate forward toward where Cpl. Sletton stood before the officer fired his weapon, I will not be seeking charges related to the death of Nasanto Antonio Crenshaw.”
In light of Crump’s decision not to prosecute Officer Sletten, the Greensboro Police Department announced that it is filing a petition with the court for the release of the body-worn camera footage from the incident.
“If the petition for release is granted by the court, the Greensboro Police Department will release recordings from this incident to the community, consistent with any conditions set by the court,” the statement reads.
On Aug. 21, 2022, Officer Sletten was placed on administrative duty as is standard protocol when officers shoot and kill anyone.
“When the police charge a person with a crime, the DA decides whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the charged crime,” Crump’s letter states. “Generally, the DA does not review police decisions not to charge an individual with a crime. However, in officer-involved shooting cases, the DA reviews the complete investigative file of the investigating agency. The DA then decides whether she agrees or disagrees with the charging decision made by the investigating agency. If the DA concludes that uncharged conduct should be prosecuted, the case will be submitted to a grand jury.
“However, if no criminal charges are filed, that does not mean the District Attorney’s Office believes the matter was in all respects handled appropriately from an administrative or tactical viewpoint,” the letter continues. “It is simply a determination that there is not a reasonable likelihood of proving criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously to a jury of 12 individuals. This is the limit of the DA’s statutory authority in these matters. The fact that a shooting may be controversial does not mean that criminal prosecution is warranted.”
Attorneys representing Doriety released a response to Crump’s decision not to prosecute on Thursday evening.
“While Ms. Doriety and all of Nasanto’s family are deeply disappointed by Ms. Crump’s failure to seek justice for her son’s killing, we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to the fact that District Attorneys in North Carolina are more simply unwilling to bring charges to the grand jury if the killer happened to be wearing a badge,” the statement reads. “…. [W]e are fully prepared to request that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate and prosecute this brutal and needless killing. District Attorney Crump clearly isn’t willing to do her job so we have to do it for her.”
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