Did a Kenly police officer cross the line by making what some may consider an unprofessional or inappropriate comment about a suspect he had just tasered, moments before the man stopped breathing and later died?
The comment was uncovered Monday by WTSB News after the 911 tape of a March high speed chase was released. The audio recording from the March 3rd chase had been sealed and withheld for 30 days at the request of the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office, in a court order signed by Superior Court Judge Tom Lock.
The audio also revealed Kenly police officer Jesse Santifort was told to disregard the pursuit but later was told to continue with the chase that at times reached 100 MPH.
Santifort was assisting the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office in the high speed pursuit of a suspect after it had entered Johnston County. The chase traveled through Kenly, Micro and Pine Level before the suspect, Alexander Warren Thompson, 37, of Braswell Road, Smithfield wrecked on US 70 East of Smithfield.
After crashing his truck and during some type of confrontation with Officer Santifort, Thompson was tasered. Santifort is heard saying on the police radio, “…he’s a little electrified at this moment but I uh think we’ve come to an understanding.”
Moments later Santifort asks for an ambulance to respond to the scene. Then an officer is heard saying CPR is in progress. Thompson died three days later at Wake Medical Center. The cause of his death has not been released but the case is under investigation by the SBI.
Santifort was initially placed on administrative leave after the incident. He has now returned to work and has been assigned as a detective with the police force.
Kenly Town Manager Greg Dunham declined to comment on the audio, referring all questions to Police Chief Josh Gibson. Gibson could not be reached before our news deadline.
Santifort has been a member of the Kenly Police Department for 6 years.
In a court order sealing the audio last month, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Sandling said the release of the recordings would “jeopardize the right of a defendant to receive a fair trial and will compromise and undermine an ongoing investigation.”
District Attorney Susan Doyle issued a statement late Monday saying, “Ethical rules prevent me from commenting on the case since this is an ongoing investigation. Those ethical rules also prevent me from specifically commenting on a statement made by that particular officer. I am awaiting the completed report from the State Bureau of Investigation. Once I receive that, I will begin my review of the case.”
Photos by John Payne