A Louisville court cleared former officer Chauncey Carthan (pictured center) of wanton endangerment charges Thursday, almost three years after he drunkenly shot an unarmed civilian, the Courier-Journal reports.
However, the jury did find Carthan guilty of DUI, for which he will have to pay a $500 fine and attend an alcohol intoxication class.
The shooting happened in September 2012. Carthan had just left a friend’s house after excessively drinking brandy. Despite his drunken state, Carthan got in to his unmarked detective car and drove away.
He soon encountered and pulled over a speeding Ishmael Gough. Both men’s accounts diverge from there. Carthan claims the 24-year-old Gough lunged at him, causing him to produce his gun and shoot him in the leg.
Gough, however, claims Carthan never showed his badge, ordered him out of his car, and then forced him to the ground when he complied.
At his trial, defense attorney Steve Schroering painted Carthan as an individual who wanted to protect his neighborhood at all costs. As he took the stand last Thursday, Carthan said he fired because Gough swung at him wildly and he feared for his life.
“There is no doubt in my mind that, that individual was going to hurt me had he took my weapon,” he testified.
Carthan’s blood samples showed he had a 0.14 blood alcohol content at the time of the incident, testified police surgeon Bill Smock last Wednesday. That is almost twice the legal limit for Kentucky drivers.
Despite that, Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw granted the defense’s motion for a directed verdict on Carthan’s misdemeanor misconduct charge Thursday, believing a reasonable jury wouldn’t convict him on it, given evidence presented during trial.
Carthan’s attorney also noted inconsistencies in Gough’s in-court testimony and his police interview at the hospital to aid his claims.
“Chauncey Carthan, like every other police officer, like every other human, has an absolute right to defend himself, Schroering told jurors. “He did what he had to do and not one bit more.”
After jurors deliberated on the charges for three hours Thursday, only the DUI stuck.
Assistant commonwealth attorney Nick Mudd, who tried getting the wanton endangerment conviction, called the outcome disappointing. He noted the difficulty in getting cops prosecuted at all.
“A lot of places it doesn’t even get past the grand jury,” he said.
Though he is free from the most serious charges, Carthan has to deal with Gough’s pending lawsuit against him and the Louisville Metro Police.
A November 2013 internal investigation found that Carthan violated departmental procedures by driving and using his gun while drunk. As a result, he resigned from the department that same week.