District Attorney Drops Charges By Kenly Police Detective

Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle has confirmed her office has dismissed all the pending cases involving a Kenly police officer under investigation for his actions in a deadly high speed chase.

Detective Jesse Santifort was involved in a high speed chase March 3rd that ended when the suspect, Alexander Warren Thompson, 37, of Smithfield crashed his fleeing truck on US 70 East of Smithfield. An autopsy reported indicated Thompson was tasered four times before he collapsed and later died.  A toxicology report indicated Thompson had drugs in his system.

Following a brief internal investigation, Santifort was cleared by Kenly Police Chief Josh Gibson to return to duty.

WTSB News learned this week, all the cases where Santifort had charged individuals with offenses are now being tossed out of court.  On the dismissals it indicated the officer was not available. The Johnston County Clerk of Court’s Office is working to provide WTSB News the total number of cases and the charges being dropped.

Kenly Town Manager Greg Dunham said Wednesday he had no comment. When asked about Santifort’s current employment status, which under NC state law is a public record, he also declined to comment.

Attempts to reach Chief Gibson have been unsuccessful.

District Attorney Doyle said she could not comment on the dismissal of the charges, including how many charges are being dropped against defendants, due to the ongoing investigation into Thompson’s death.  The SBI completed an investigation into the incident and submitted their findings to Doyle approximately 3 weeks ago. She told WTSB News on Wednesday her investigation should be completed in July.  Doyle said ethically she was prohibited from making any comment until the investigation was finished.

A NC Medical Examiners autopsy report indicated Thompson’s cause of death was a “homicide” but the term was for classification purposes and does not indicate a crime.

Immediately after the pursuit, the District Attorney’s Office blocked the release of police radio traffic for 30 days.  WTSB obtained a copy of the audio after the court order was lifted. It revealed Officer Santifort made a questionable comment about Thompson after tasering him. “…he’s a little electrified at this moment but I uh think we’ve come to an understanding.”

Moments later Santifort asked for an ambulance, then an officer is heard saying CPR was in progress.  Thompson died three days later at Wake Medical Center. Photos by John Payne