Prosecutors Drop 27 Charges Filed By Kenly Cop

ChaseOfficer Still Employed But No Longer On Active Patrol

 A total of 27 charges filed by a Kenly police officer against 12 people have been dismissed by the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office. All the charges were filed by Detective Jesse Santifort, who was involved in a  high speed chase in March that resulted with the suspect being tasered and later dying in the hospital. In May, the SBI completed their investigation into the chase and now District Attorney Susan Doyle is reviewing the report to see if any criminal charges are warranted.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson and Clerk of Court Michelle Ball released a list of the dismissed charges. The 27 charges including four drug offenses, 3 DWI’s, two child abuse, and a felony obtaining property by false pretense.  The others ranged from misdemeanor criminal to traffic violations.

Authorities have not specifically stated why they dropped all the charges issued by Santifort, however District Attorney Doyle released a statement to WTSB saying, “Once the District Attorney’s Office gained access and reviewed Santifort’s personnel records, we were ethically prohibited from calling him as a witness to testify in any case from that point forward. That is when the decision was made to dismiss all pending cases.”

Those personnel records are not considered public record under NC law and could not be obtained by WTSB.

No Longer On Patrol
Kenly Town Manager Greg Dunham tells WTSB News that Officer Santifort is no longer on “active” law enforcement patrol in Kenly and works in the police department office.

On Thursday, speaking from the Kenly Town Hall, Dunham said Santifort helps identify code enforcement issues around town but has enough office work, including handling evidence, for that to be his primarily job duty.

Dunham said he had no comment on the decision by the district attorney’s office to dismiss all of the charges Officer Dunham had previously filed against individuals.

March High Speed Chase
Detective 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.

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 News 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. Photo by John Payne