The police officers who shot the suspect in a killing spree that left five people dead in South Carolina during the summer will not face any charges, a prosecutor said Friday.
The three officers had no choice but to fire on Patrick Burris after he shot one of them when they confronted him in a home on July 6, said Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell, who reviewed a report on the shooting from the State Bureau of Investigation.
"I read the entire thing, and it was clearly a justified shooting," Bell said.
Officers investigating an early morning burglary complaint at a vacant home in Gastonia found Burris. After learning he was wanted on a parole violation, they went to arrest him and he pulled out a gun, firing a shot that struck one of the officers but didn't cause serious injuries, authorities said.
The officers fired back, striking Burris, 41, in the heart and the head, killing him. One bullet even entered the barrel of Burris' gun, preventing him from firing again, Bell said.
"Their training and quick reaction prevented Burris from killing any of the officers," Bell said.
Investigators then learned the gun the habitual felon used to shoot at the officers was the same weapon that killed five people about 30 miles away in Gaffney, S.C., in the span of six days in June and July.
The killing spree began when peach farmer Kline Cash, 63, was killed June 27. Four days later, Hazel Linder, 83, and her daughter, Gena Linder Parker, 50, were found bound and shot in the older woman's home. The next day, Stephen Tyler and his 15-year-old daughter Abby were found shot in their family's furniture store.
Ballistics linked all five shooting to the gun Burris had the day he was killed.
Burris had a long rap sheet filled with convictions for larceny, forgery and breaking-and-entering across the Southeast, including Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. He was paroled from a North Carolina prison in April after serving nearly eight years for felony breaking-and-entering and larceny.
Bell said it's important for the public to understand how dangerous it can be for a police officer to do their job. He said he had never seen an incident that came so close to an officer causality.
"In this situation, they were within a second of a disaster happening," he said.
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