Rally demands answers, justice for mentally ill man shot 8 times by Raleigh police

Supporters of Soheil Mojarrad rally in Raleigh

Kerwin Pittman and other supporters of Soheil Mojarrad, shot and killed by Raleigh police, rally in downtown Raleigh Wednesday Aug. 7, 2019.
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Kerwin Pittman and other supporters of Soheil Mojarrad, shot and killed by Raleigh police, rally in downtown Raleigh Wednesday Aug. 7, 2019.

Friends and family of Soheil Mojarrad rallied downtown Wednesday, calling for answers and accountability in the case of the mentally ill man shot and killed by Raleigh police.

About 25 people gathered at the Wake County courthouse on Fayetteville Street urging quick action and transparency in the 30-year-old’s death, repeating, “Silence is acceptance.”

“We are still here seeking justice for Soheil,” said Kerwin Pittman, executive director of RREPS, which offers rehabilitation services for offenders. “Soheil is one of the many examples of police brutality that gets played out in our community, and so we ask that all local officials stop being silent.”

In April, Raleigh police said Senior Officer W.B. Edwards shot Mojarrad at the shopping center on New Bern Avenue and Rogers Lane as he came toward him carrying a knife, refusing orders to stop.

An autopsy later showed Mojarrad had been shot eight times. No drugs or alcohol were detected in his body.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Wednesday that she hopes to complete her review of the evidence and make a decision on any charges sometime in the next few weeks.

“We want to make sure we’ve been thorough and detailed and deliberate in making these decisions,” she said. “We certainly understand the tragedy these families have endured. We’re trying to determine if criminal law was broken.”

The case sparked controversy because Edwards did not have his body camera turned on and because Mojarrad had a long history of mental illness. At an earlier vigil in April, friends and family described him as peaceful but troubled by a traumatic brain injury stemming from a 2012 accident in Asheville. He lived less than a mile from the shooting scene.

Supporters brought pictures of him in his garden and carried placards reading “Justice in Policing” and “Use of Force Has Got to Go.”

Supporters brought up the 2018 attack on Kyron Hinton after he stood in the middle of Raleigh Boulevard, chanting. Freeman brought charges against Wake County Deputy Cameron Broadwell, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and lost his job.

They also mentioned the fatal shooting of Akiel Denkins, 24, by a Raleigh police officer on South East Street in 2016. Freeman declined to charge the officer, citing self-defense shown by the physical evidence at the scene.

“The use of force and bias in policing goes beyond any one case,” said Surena Johnson, coalition leader with PAC, a community task force that advocates police accountability. She referred to Edwards as “the officer who reached for his gun before he reached for his body camera.”

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.