On July 28, US District Court Judge Catherine Eagles granted Greensboro Police Officer Matthew Sletten’s motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit that was filed against him.

As reported by Triad City Beat, Sletten shot and killed 17-year-old Nasanto Crenshaw a year ago on Aug. 21 during a traffic stop. On March 9 of this year, Crenshaw’s mother Wakita Doriety filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Sletten and the city of Greensboro that stated that her son’s Constitutional rights were violated.

But a few weeks ago, Judge Eagles granted two orders to dismiss the case.

In one order, Eagles grants governmental immunity to the city. In the other order, Eagles upholds Sletten’s use of force as justified, stating that the “split-second judgment to fire a weapon when faced with an immediate and obvious threat of serious physical harm from a deadly weapon was not unreasonable as a matter of law.”

In response to Eagles’ orders, attorneys for Doriety filed an appeal on Aug. 17.

In a press release, the attorneys stated that their “pursuit of justice for Nasanto Crenshaw is far from over.”

“Respectfully, we believe the court got it wrong,” said attorney Harry Daniels. “We strongly believe that the video clearly shows that Nastanto’s killing was unnecessary and illegal and we’re convinced the Court of Appeals will see it our way.”

Now the case will go to the Court of Appeals where both sides will either submit written briefs or make oral arguments to a panel of judges. Most appeals are final, according to the US Courts website, unless the case is sent back to trial court or the parties ask the US Supreme Court to take up the case.

In the press release, Doriety expressed the sorrow of missing her son.

“I’ll never get to hug my son again,” Doriety said. “I’ll never get to hold his hand or tell him I love him. They stole my son from me….”

Nasanto Crenshaw is one of dozens of people who have been killed at the hands of Triad law enforcement in the last decade. In June, officers with the Greensboro Police Department shot and killed two more people. In the past five years, the city of Greensboro has spent more than $4 million in attorney’s fees to defend police officers who have used force against residents.

Background on the case

On April 25, the Greensboro Police Department released 104 videos that document what took place on Aug. 21 between Nasanto Crenshaw and Officer Sletten.

As reported by TCB, Crenshaw was driving a stolen vehicle on Aug. 21, 2022 around 9 p.m. when Sletten attempted to pull him over, steering him into the Super G Mart parking lot off of West Market Street. Sletten told investigators that he pulled Crenshaw over because he was driving with his high-beam lights on.

Interpretation of the events in the ensuring minutes after Sletten pulls Crenshaw over have been contested by both the police department and Doriety’s attorneys.

The city states that Crenshaw drove the car towards Sletten, who was outside of his patrol car, and that Sletten shot Crenshaw to defend himself.

Attorneys for the family say that Crenshaw had “clearly turned away from Sletten” and that the officer “wasn’t in the car’s path” when he shot Crenshaw through the windshield and side window. Sletten fired three shots, all of which hit Crenshaw in the right forearm, right-side ribcage and the right side of his neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the GPD’s Use of Force Policy 1.6.4, officers are prohibited from firing their weapons from or at moving cars “except to counter an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person and no other means are reasonably available at that time…”

GPD policy also states that officers can only shoot at moving vehicles in four specific situations.

  1. If the driver is using or threatening to use lethal force by means other than the vehicle
  2. If the vehicle is being operated in a manner deliberately intended to strike a person
  3. If all other reasonable means of defense of escape, including taking cover or moving out of the path of the vehicle have been exhausted, are not practical, or are not present
  4. Use of deadly force must cease after the vehicle no longer presents an immediate threat

Based on the criteria clearly outlined in the police department’s policy, it’s notable that Sletten appears to have violated at least three of the situations. 

In late March, Guilford County District Attorney Avery Crump stated that the office would not seek criminal charges against Sletten after she concluded that he was justified in his use of force.

Who is Officer Matthew Sletten?

According to GPD Public Information Officer Josie Cambareri, 42-year-old Officer Matthew Sletten is still employed by the department. A public records request shows that Sletten has been employed by the GPD since 2008 when he was hired as a police officer. Since then, Sletten has received routine pay raises and promotions, most recently to the role of corporal. As of March, Sletten’s salary was $74,231.

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