MISSOULA – A Montana’s sheriff’s deputy was justified in killing a man who was running away from officers after refusing orders to drop a machete, a jury assigned to review the case found.
Johnny Lee Perry II, who was Black, died Aug. 29 after being shot in the back in a field northwest of Missoula by a white deputy responding to a report that Perry had threatened a man with a machete.
Coroner’s inquests are required under Montana law whenever law enforcement officers are involved in a fatal shooting or someone dies in law enforcement custody.
Deputies told Perry repeatedly over about 30 minutes to drop the machete as he swung it around in an open field, according to testimony and video footage presented Thursday during a coroner’s inquest before a jury at the Missoula County courthouse.
As Perry began moving toward a camper, deputies shot him with foam bullets. Perry then started to run when Deputy Justin White issued a command for Deputy Sean Evans to shoot. Perry, 31, was struck in the back.
The jury deliberated for 45 minutes before finding Evans wasn’t criminally responsible for Perry’s death.
Perry’s mother, Lesha White, told the Missoulian that no one asked her son what made him feel threatened or asked him if he actually threatened the man that led to the 911 call. She said the not guilty verdict had been “predicted and expected, due to the narrative of the inquest.”
Protesters left Black Lives Matter signs outside the courthouse and were in the courtroom for the hearing, NBC Montana reported.
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