RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On May 7, 37-year-old Reuel Rodriguez Nunez was fatally shot while throwing Molotov cocktails at patrol cars and Raleigh police officers at the department’s Southeast District Station at 2800 Rock Quarry Road.
Since that day, video of the incident has been released, radio traffic between officers was shared with the public, and the Raleigh Police Department released its 5-day investigative report of the incident.
Nunez’s family also made demands that officer P.W. Coates be fired and have his certification stripped as a law enforcement officer after they claim he “bullied and provoked” Nunez before he was fatally shot.
On Monday, just over five months since Nunez was shot by in the officer-involved shooting, investigation findings were released by the office of Wake County District Attorney, Lorrin Freeman.
In its conclusion, the DA’s report found that “Prior to Officer Coates arriving on scene and engaging Mr. Nunez, officers on scene had legal justification in using force.”
The report further said, “Officer Coates’ conduct does not change the analysis of whether lethal use of force was lawful. Mr. Nunez posed a threat of imminent deadly harm to the officers and to other members of the public.”
In rehashing the evidence and timeline of the events, the DA’s office shared the following in its analysis:
- Raleigh Police Lt. Schabel noticed smoke coming from a jeep in the substation parking lot and saw Nunez sitting on the bumper of a silver van.
- Nunez positioned himself and his vehicle in the parking lot of the substation, not far from the busy roadway of Rock Quarry Rd.
- Nunez had four to six cups lined up at his feet at the time Schabel arrived.
- Nunez approached him and began throwing fluid toward him, causing Schabel to call for back-up and request response from Raleigh Fire Department.
- A second policeman, officer Beausoleil responded and, along with Schabel, approached Nunez in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.
- Nunez began throwing the Molotov cocktails in the direction of the officers.
- A third policeman, officer Oreskey arrived on scene at which point more than 20 commands had been given to Nunez without effect. (Overall, in a three-minute period, approximately 30 commands to stop were given.)
- Nunez moved toward the three officers, throwing three of the lit Molotov cocktails.
- An unattended law enforcement vehicle was also caught on fire.
- Officer Coates was the fourth officer to arrive on the scene, parking his vehicle along Rock Quarry Road and walking along the side of where Nunez was located.
- Coates then yelled at Nunez, saying, “Go ahead [expletive], do it, do it” and similar language.
- In response, Nunez threw anoth Molotov cocktail towards Coates, almost hitting him.
- All four officers then fired their weapons at Nunez.
Nunez was taken to WakeMed following resuscitative efforts and was pronounced dead in the emergency room.
The findings of an autopsy report showed that Nunez had sustained 11 gunshot wounds, including a perforating wound which injured his left lung and heart. It was not able to be determined which officer’s bullets struck Nunez, the DA report said.
The report cited NC General Statute 15A-401 which says deadly force is authorized “when an officer reasonably believes there is a threat of the imminent use of deadly physical force against [them] or a third person.”
Ultimately, the DA report concluded Nunez posed a threat of imminent deadly harm to the officers and to other members of the public, given that Nunez could have turned his attacks toward vehicles passing by on Rock Quarry Rd. at any time.
The report also addressed the yelled expletive from officer Coates, saying his “conduct does not change the analysis of whether lethal use of force was lawful.”