No charges to be brought in fatal Selby shooting 

By on February 21, 2024

Special prosecutor says shooting of Sylvester Demetrius Selby by Dare Sheriff’s Deputy was ‘not unlawful’

Sylvester Demtrius Selby. (Photo courtesy of Wukela Communication)

In a decision announced on Feb. 21, special investigator Chuck Spahos concluded that the fatal October 2023 shooting of Manteo resident Sylvester Demetrius Selby by Dare County Sheriff’s Deputy Francis Glaser III “was indisputably tragic, but it was not unlawful.” No charges will be filed in the case.

The decision also concluded “that the force used by Deputy Glaser was authorized by G.S. 15A-401 (d)(2)(a) to defend himself” and another office at the scene from the “imminent use of deadly physical force by Mr. Selby.” According to the account of events compiled by Spahos, Selby was charging and lunging at the officers with a knife when he was fatally shot.

Spahos was appointed as the prosecutor to investigate that case after Dare County District Attorney Jeff Cruden recused himself, stating that his relationships with both parties involved in the incident created a “potential conflict of interest.”

The fatal shooting of Selby occurred on Oct. 2 and on Dec. 7, his family filed a lawsuit naming Glaser, as well as Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie, as defendants. The claims being brought include a federal constitutional claim, Wrongful Death and Battery and Assault against the named defendants.

In a response to the Spahos decision, Selby family attorney Harry Daniels said, “I’m not surprised,” noting that it is rare when prosecutors make the “bold” move to take these kind of cases to the grand jury. “We wholeheartedly disagree with Special Prosecutor Spahos, not just on the conclusion, but on the facts.” He also asserts that Selby was not wielding a knife at the time the fatal shots were fired.

Daniels cited the fatal 2021 shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City by Pasquotank County Deputies, who were not charged in the shooting. Brown’s family did receive a $3 million settlement in the case. Daniels also indicated that there is a court session on March 13 to hear preliminary arguments on the Selby family lawsuit.

The Dare County Sheriff’s office had no comment on the matter.

Below, we are including the complete “summary of the findings and decision” that was made available by Spahos’ office.

 

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Pursuant to the request by District Attorney Jeff Cruden to the Administrative Office of the Courts to appoint a special prosecutor to review this matter and after the case was assigned to the undersigned as special prosecutor, our office has reviewed the investigation surrounding the shooting death of Sylvester Demetrius Selby on October 3, 20023 in Dare County. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigated this case, case number 2023-02676. The purpose of this review is to determine if the actions of Dare County Sheriff’s Deputy Edward Francis Glaser III and his use of deadly force on Sylvester Demetrius Selby were consistent with his legal authority as a law enforcement officer or if such actions were unlawful.

Law Enforcement Use of Force:

North Carolina General Statute section 15A-401 (d)(2)(a) is the relevant section of the law that defines when a law enforcement officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person to defend themselves or others:

A law-enforcement officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person for a purpose specified in subdivision (1) of this subsection only when it is or appears to be reasonably necessary thereby:

  1. To defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.

The North Carolina Supreme Court has made clear that “Subdivision (d)(2) was designed solely to codify and clarify those situations in which a police officer may use deadly force without fear of incurring criminal or civil liability.” State v. Irick, 291 N.C. 480, 231 S.E.2d 833 (1977).

 

Additional Legal standards

The law recognizes an inherent right to use deadly force to protect oneself or others from death or great bodily harm. This core legal principle is referred to as the right to “self-defense.” Under North Carolina law, the burden of proof is on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant did not act in self-defense. The Supreme Court of North Carolina defined the law of self-defense in State v. Norris, 303 N.C. 526 (1981). A killing is justified under North Carolina law if it appears to a person that it is necessary to kill in order to save himself or others from death or great bodily harm. The law requires that the belief in the necessity to kill must be reasonable under the circumstances. Id at 529.

Facts surrounding the death of Sylvester Demetrius Selby:

At approximately 11:30 P.M. on October 2, 2023, Dare County Sheriff’s Deputy Edward Francis Glaser III and Sergeant Duwayne Gibbs responded to a trespassing call at 1372 Burnside Road, Manteo, N.C. This location was the home of John Simms. Deputies were told that a “Demetrius suspect was trespassing and tearing stuff up inside of the residence.”

On August 26, 2023, Deputy Glaser and a Manteo Police Officer, David Rhoads, had responded to a similar call at 1372 Burnside Road, Manteo, N.C. During this incident, Mr. Simms reported that Sylvester Demetrius Selby had entered his residence without permission. Mr. Simms described that there had been a tussle with Mr. Selby. During this incident, Mr. Selby lunged at Officer Rhoads. EMS and law enforcement had to restrain Mr. Selby to a gurney. EMS had to chemically sedate Mr. Selby. Deputy Glaser had to ride with EMS to transport Mr. Selby to the hospital.

On October 2, 2023, both Deputy Glaser and Sergeant Gibbs were in uniform and clearly identifiable as police officers and had activated their body-worn cameras. A review of the body-worn camera footage revealed that as the deputies approached the house, the only light—other than that coming from Sergeant Gibbs’ flashlight—is coming from the open front door and a single-bulb porch light beside the open door. The residence is an older single-wide trailer with four steps up onto a wooden porch to the front door. A large bicycle is at the foot of the stairs, lying on the ground and blocking the normal path to the steps.

As shown in the body-worn camera footage, Mr. Simms is present outside the residence, some distance from the porch, and leaning against a utility trailer parked in the yard. Mr. Simms is heard saying to the deputies, “he is going crazy … he is not allowed to come here because he has those spasms.” Sergeant Gibbs approaches the front porch from the side and stands at the bottom of the steps, with the bicycle between him and the bottom of the steps. Knowing Mr. Selby from prior encounters, Sergeant Gibbs starts calling to him by using his first name. Sergeant Gibbs asked Mr. Selby to come outside at least three times.

When Mr. Selby does appear, he has what can clearly be seen as a large knife in his left hand. Mr. Selby also appears to have blood on his clothing in the front torso area. In a normal voice, Sergeant Gibbs asks Mr. Selby to put the knife down. Mr. Selby does not comply with the commands given by Sergeant Gibbs, and within seconds, Mr. Selby starts running down the stairs and directly at Sergeant Gibbs with the knife still in hand.

Deputy Glaser also tells Mr. Selby to put the knife down. Mr. Selby does not comply with these commands and runs directly at Sergeant Gibbs with the knife in hand. Deputy Glaser fires one shot from his department-issued firearm, striking Mr. Selby in the torso. Mr. Selby falls to the ground and begins thrashing violently. Multiple commands are issued for Mr. Selby not to get up. Within seconds, Mr. Selby is on his hands and knees, leaps to his feet, and lunges at Deputy Glaser. Deputy Glaser, who had attempted to back away from Mr. Selby, fires two more rounds, striking Mr. Selby again. As soon as Mr. Selby is on the ground the second time, the deputies immediately request emergency medical personnel and check Mr. Selby’s condition. Sergeant Gibbs finds that Mr. Selby does not have a pulse and is deceased.

Sergeant Gibbs’ interview with the SBI disclosed:

Deputy Glaser saved his life that night. He thought he was in imminent deadly danger and was going to get stabbed. Sergeant Gibbs indicated he was not able to draw his firearm due to the trailer creating a tripping hazard while he was attempting to put distance between himself and Selby.

Deputy Glaser’s interview with the SBI disclosed:

Sergeant Gibbs called for Selby to exit the residence. Selby exited but had a knife in his left hand. He was about ten to twelve feet from Sergeant Gibbs. Selby was told to drop the knife by both deputies. Selby quickly came off the porch towards Sergeant Gibbs, still holding the knife and within feet of Sergeant Gibbs. Deputy Glaser thought Sergeant Gibbs was in imminent deadly danger and fired once at Selby. Selby went down to the ground but continued crawling toward the deputies. Deputies retreated towards the road, and Selby continued towards them. Selby was within feet of Deputy Glaser when he lunged from a couching-like position at Deputy Glaser. Deputy Glaser thought Selby was still armed and a danger to himself (Glaser), so he fired two more times from a close distance.

Deputy Glaser said after his first shot, when Selby continued to advance on him, he perceived Selby was still armed and a deadly threat. Deputy Glaser said Selby came out armed with a knife, refused to follow commands to drop the knife, and quickly closed distance on Sergeant Gibbs and himself as the reasons why he used deadly force. He said he was protecting Sergeant Gibbs and himself.

No other persons except Mr. Selby, Mr. Simms, Sergeant Gibbs, and Deputy Glaser were present during the incident. During an autopsy performed at the Medical Examiner’s Office at ECU Health Medical Center, Greenville, NC, it was discovered that Mr. Selby also had a knife wound to his chest that contributed to his death.

Analysis

Based on a thorough review of the investigation conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation—including extensive interviews of all witnesses and a review of both Sergeant Gibbs’ and Deputy Glaser’s body-worn camera footage—it appears that the force used by Deputy Glaser was authorized by G.S. 15A-401 (d)(2)(a) to defend himself and Sergeant Gibbs from what a reasonable officer would have believed to be the use of imminent use of deadly physical force by Mr. Selby. In addition, the use of deadly force appears reasonable under the circumstances, and Deputy Glaser was justified under North Carolina law in that it appeared that it was necessary to kill in order to save himself or others from death or great bodily harm.

This shooting was indisputably tragic, but it was not unlawful. Consequently, our office will not be seeking charges related to the death of Sylvester Demetrius Selby.

 


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Comments

  • Rob Martenis

    Why wasn’t he shot in the leg/knee area instead?

    Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 3:50 pm
  • OBX Resident

    Release the body cam footage for confirmation of the ‘facts’. I am sorry for the loss of life. With body cam footage, the narrative often becomes clear. Why has it not been publically released?

    Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 6:42 pm
  • Shena Twitty-Carver

    Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 6:45 pm
  • John Stevenson

    Glad you asked that question. This is a fundamental misunderstanding with firearms and their purpose. If the officer did as you suggested he would have probably been killed. You are taught to shoot center mass and stop the threat. The perpetrator is a threat to your life. You are not Annie Oakley, a trick shooter who can submit your “will” on somebody to do as you ask with trick shooting skills… Don’t get me wrong, it would be great if we could simply ask criminals “hey, if I just shoot you in the leg, will you just stop coming at me and continue to threaten my life??” Unfortunately, in real life a law enforcement officer has to make a split second decision his life is in danger. And the only thing he can do, the only tool he has to preserve his life, is his gun. A blunt instrument, which is only effective if used properly to stop a threat. Center mass and keep shooting until the treat is neutralized. If you do not understand this, then stay out of public comment and keep it to yourself. The officers family is happy he was trained well and utilized the training we, as a community, gave him. We have a 2nd amendment right to do the same as private citizens.

    Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 7:12 pm
  • Jeff Walker

    We investigated ourselves and found we did nothing wrong.

    Thursday, Feb 22 @ 6:22 am
  • Wondering

    Kudos for this article.
    How did the stab wound to the chest happen? It is mentioned in several reports, but with no explanation. If it “contributed” to his death, did anyone ask about it in the investigation?

    Thursday, Feb 22 @ 6:43 am
  • Freenusa

    If Mr. Selby had followed the deputy’s instructions, he would not have been shot, plain and simple. His poor decisions lead to him being shot and as a result he died. A sad story.

    Thursday, Feb 22 @ 8:28 am
  • Travis

    Thanks for publishing the summary of the full findings. Feels kind of rare to be offered this level of insight. I feel bad for everyone involved. There are a few silver linings (nobody else was hurt) but nobody wins in these situations.

    Thursday, Feb 22 @ 11:15 am
  • surf123

    It is always the same story when people are shot. If you listen to the orders being given and do not do anything else you will be alive and only arrested. You get beat up, shot, or killed when you do not listen. Of course there are rogue cops who are going to beat you up anyway and hope they can shoot you, but there are not that many of those left and complying will guarantee you are in better condition versus disobeying. As for shooting him in the leg that is the most ridiculous statement I hear about police shootings. When you are being threatened you shoot to stop and your best odds are center of mass (biggest target and most likely to stop them). Trying to shoot someone in the leg is a reckless and probably wasted shot because the target is so small and has a lot of movement if running. No one wants to see anyone shot, but not listening guarantees a bad to the worst outcome.

    Friday, Feb 23 @ 4:10 pm
  • Just asking . . .

    This is such a sad story for all involved, but just have one question…..
    Why does Sgt Gibbs say the following in his statement?

    “Deputy Glaser thought Selby was still armed and a danger to himself (Glaser), so he fired two more times from a close distance.”

    Can you shoot someone by just thinking they are armed? Just asking.

    Tuesday, Mar 5 @ 7:31 pm