Investigation into deadly police ambush involves meticulous firearm forensics

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9 got new insight into the extensive investigation underway as law enforcement searches for answers in last week’s ambush attack.

Channel 9′s veteran crime reporter Glenn Counts spoke with a firearms expert about what a case of this magnitude may look like for those tasked with knowing exactly what happened on Galway Drive.

Parts of the massive investigation deal with accounting for every shot fired by law enforcement.

The tragic loss of four officers in east Charlotte might be one of the most massive investigations in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s history.

“Especially in a case this size, I can’t even imagine how much evidence they collected at a scene like that,” said Stephanie Walcott, a firearms expert.

Walcott is an assistant professor in forensic science at Virginia Commonwealth University. Before that, she was a firearms and toolmark examiner for the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab.

Walcott’s job was matching bullets to the guns that fired it.

“That identification for our purposes is as reliable as a fingerprint to a suspect,” she said.

The process is laborious and involves examining bullets under a microscope. It will be a key part of the investigation on Galway Drive, she said.

“The more complicated part of a police shooting is that they all carry the same make and model of weapon, which means the marks those weapons each leave are going to be similar to each other,” Walcott said.

CMPD said that at least 12 officers returned fire. The suspect was also armed with weapons that were like the officers.

“Now, the next step is, I have to test fire all of the weapons, so they would have to test each firearm that was there that could have potentially have been fired,” Walcott said.

CMPD has its own firearm and toolmark section and Walcott said the analysis takes time, so the public should have patience.

“As much as it frustrates people how long it takes for results to get out, it’s actually a good sign when it takes a long time because it means laboratory analyses are giving the evidence the attention it deserves to make sure they are coming to the right conclusions,” Walcott said.

The process is lengthy and thorough.

Walcott said that after the process is finished, another examiner double-checks the work and there is one more review process before the results are released.

Two other people were inside that home on Galway Drive during the shootout.

A woman and a teen girl were questioned by police and released.

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said the two were tested for gun residue on their hands and they were awaiting the results of that test.

VIDEO: 4 officers killed, 4 hurt during east Charlotte standoff

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