Prosecutor says he wouldn't have filed charges in Ahmonta Harris shooting

Posted on 23 January 2019 at 12:40pm

COLUMBIA - Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight on Wednesday released the results of his investigation into the shooting death of Ahmonta Harris in November.

According to the Boone County Sheriff's Department, Harris was shot and killed while trying to rob a home on Limoges Drive. Social media posts following the shooting identified Deonte Gainwell as possibly the person who shot Harris.

Gainwell was later shot and killed at a home on Weymeyer Drive. No arrests have been made or suspects identified in that case.

In a letter from Knight to the Boone County Sheriff's Department, Knight confirmed Gainwell shot Harris to death, and, if had Gainwell had not later been killed himself, Knight's office would not have pursued criminal charges against him.

According to the letter, Gainwell told deputies he woke up in his room at the Limoges address on November 24 to find Harris there, pointing a gun with a laser sight at him and demanding money.

Gainwell said he shot Harris a number of times. An autopsy report showed Harris had five bullet wounds, including three in the head.

Knight said the chaotic shot pattern supports Gainwell's claims. 

"I think that the evidence, actually, from the autopsy, supports , absolutely supports Gainwell’s statement that he was doing this in response to this threat of force from Ahmonta Harris," he said. 

Knight's letter said evidence from the scene suggest someone, believed to be Harris, climbed their way through the open window into Gainwell's room.

Knight concluded Gainwell had the right to use self-defense, because "the evidence in this case clearly shows that Harris unlawfully entered Gainwell's residence and attempted to rob Gainwell before Gainwell shot Harris."

Some people had told investigators Harris went to Gainwell's home to sell him concert tickets, but deputies said they found no evidence of communication between the two men or anything else to back up those claims.

Knight said there was no indication the two men had any intention to meet or that Harris would go to Gainwell's home for any reason.

Harris had past convictions for assault and property damage. Harris also was known for organizing an event dubbed the "Fireworks War" in which people battled with roman candles and whatever else they stockpiled before the Fourth of July holiday. Harris described the event as a way to bring people together, but law enforcement decried it as dangerous.

Knight noted Harris took steps to conceal his presence in the area: wearing dark, identity-obscuring clothes, parking out of sight and turning off his cell phone, which could not then be tracked.

The prosecutor's letter finished by saying, "Since there is no probable cause to believe Gainwell committed a crime by shooting Harris, he would not have been charged for the shooting."

Knight said he felt inclined to release his review because of a significant public interest in the case. 

Police spokesman Jeff Pitts said the investigation is ongoing and that there have been no arrests in Gainwell's death. He said "police are looking at all the different avenues and if a link does come up, they will look into that further." He said he could not comment further about the case and whether Gainwell's death is believed to be retaliatory.

Gainwell's death is not the only instance of violence to follow Harris' death. Gunfire erupted during the funeral for Harris. Prosecutors have charged an 18-year-old with unlawful use of a weapon in the incident.