Raleigh, N.C. — One of the three candidates to become Raleigh’s next police chief said four years ago that she had no problem with an officer seen in video holding a gun to a man’s head.
Estella Patterson has been deputy chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department since 2019. She has worked her way up the ranks of the department since she started there in 1996.
During a Thursday night forum in which she and the other two candidates for the Raleigh job answered questions from the public, Patterson vowed to make Raleigh the safest community in America. She also stated that any misconduct by police, especially related to race, must be investigated.
“If we have an incident in which an officer or an employee is accused of making a racial statement or racial comment, we are going to do an investigation,” she said.
But in 2017, she defended a Charlotte officer who threatened to kill an unarmed man. At the time, she headed the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
Footage from a body-worn camera obtained by WBTV in Charlotte shows officers arresting James Yarborough, and an officer identified as Jon Dunham can be heard threatening him.
“Stop. I will kill you,” Dunham said in the video as he pressed a gun to Yarborough’s head.
The arrest followed a traffic stop in which Yarborough tried to run from police, and filed an excessive force complaint against Dunham.
“When you look completely at the totality of the circumstances, you have to ask yourself, is that reasonable? And based on everything, it was reasonable,” Patterson told WBTV when asked about the bodycam footage.
Days later, then-Police Chief Kerr Putney called Dunham’s behavior indefensible.
Dunham had already left the department by the time the WBTV story aired, and he was never formally reprimanded for the incident.
Patterson didn’t respond Friday to WRAL News’ requests for comment.
Neither Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, any member of the City Council, City Manger Marchell Adams-David nor the search firm the city used to help vet candidates for police chief responded to requests for comment, either.
The City Council may choose the next chief at its meeting next Tuesday. Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown retires on June 30, and officials have said they would like to have the new chief in place by then.
The other two candidates are Rob Lowe, deputy superintendent of the Cambridge (Mass.) Police Department, and Darryl McSwain, chief of police for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
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