• Activist: Family 'upset' Gastonia officer not charged, shooting ruled accidental

    By: Mark Becker

    Updated:

    GASTONIA, N.C. - Activists are calling for transparency and more information after Gaston County’s district attorney announced he will not charge a Gastonia police officer in an accidental shooting on July 8.

    The district attorney sent a letter to the police chief Wednesday saying he will not charge Officer Stephen Whisnant, who injured Brittany Lynn, when he shot into her home on South Gray Street.

    John Barnette, an activist representing Lynn and her family, told Channel 9 they are not satisfied with that explanation.

    Barnette said he wants to hear more from the district attorney about the decision not to file charges.

    Whisnant was at the Gray Street home to arrest Jarvis Lynn when he accidentally shot Lynn's sister, Brittany, according to a news release from the DA.

    [Gastonia police department taking heat after unarmed woman shot by police]

    Brittany Lynn said she opened the door for Whisnant with her hands in the air and he open fired. She was shot three times.

    In a letter to the Gastonia's police chief, district attorney Locke Bell wrote, “It was an accidental discharge which appears to have happened as the officer was running and reaching for the storm door."

    Lynn was treated at a hospital and later released.

    Lynn and her family learned about the district attorney’s decision Wednesday.

    “(Brittany) has been asked not to speak, but she definitely wants to attend our rallies in the future,” Barnett said. “She's definitely upset. She thinks the officer needs to be fired.”

    Gastonia's police chief said Whisnant is on administrative leave while they conduct an internal investigation.

    Barnette said he wants the district attorney to release body camera video of the shooting to restore the public's trust in the department.

    “If they're more transparent with the community, that'll build that trust,” Barnette said. “Right now, I see no trust.”

    The State Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation.

    “We want to thank the SBI for conducting the investigation,” said police Chief Robert Helton. “They were not obligated to do this and it took time away from their assigned investigations. Their leadership ensured that the investigation was conducted independently of the police department that was involved.”

    Jarvis Lynn, who was wanted on unrelated charges, was carrying a pistol at the time of the incident and refused to lower it, according to arrest warrants.

    (Jarvis Lynn)

    The Gastonia Police Department will not initiate the release of Whisnant’s body camera video because it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation involving Jarvis Lynn, according to the DA’s news release.

    He is charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.

    Jarvis’ arraignment was originally set for Oct. 29 but was continued by the court.

    A new date for his hearing has not been set.

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