The man who shot Ahmonta Harris in November would not have been charged with any crime because evidence collected by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department indicated Harris had broken into his home and tried to rob him, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said after reviewing the case.

Deonte Gainwell was found shot to death Jan. 17 in north Columbia. Police have yet to identify any suspects in his death.

In a letter to sheriff’s detective Chris Lester, Knight said Gainwell committed no crime when he shot Harris, who was known as a community activist, during an attempted robbery at Gainwell’s home Nov. 24.

The nine-page report cites evidence collected from Sheriff’s Department investigators to help piece together what happened that night in November.

Knight said in his letter that because the Harris shooting is “of general public interest,” he felt it was important to render an opinion in the case despite the fact that Gainwell later was the victim of an apparent homicide.

“Ethically, I, as a prosecutor, will not prosecute a charge that is not supported by probable cause,” Knight wrote. “Further, the evidence proves that Gainwell did not commit a crime under Missouri law for shooting Harris. ... I believe it is important for citizens to understand the circumstances of this shooting and why Gainwell acted lawfully in shooting Harris.”

The letter summarizes statements Gainwell gave to the sheriff’s detectives and other evidence of a burglary found at the scene.

Harris had parked a distance away from Gainwell’s residence using his girlfriend’s car, where he left his wallet and powered-off cellphone, according to the letter. Harris was wearing all black attire excluding red gloves that were found on his person, including a balaclava that obscured his face.

After parking, Harris ascended the side of Gainwell’s residence, leaving dirt and water smudges on the structure in addition to bending a gutter attached to the structure, Knight’s letter said.

Gainwell was asleep in his second-floor bedroom at 5783 E. Limoges Drive when he woke to find Harris pointing a gun at him, according to the report. Gainwell explained that he had left his window cracked open. The officers found the window about 14 inches ajar, which backs up Gainwell’s statement.

Harris then demanded money and trained a handgun, equipped with a laser light, at Gainwell, the report said.

Gainwell told Harris that he did not have any money and shot Harris in the head with a .40-caliber handgun.

The autopsy conducted by Dr. Deiter Duff found that Harris was shot five times and that the three shots to the head were the cause of his death, the report said.

The report found the blood spatter on the window, which backed the claim that Harris had entered from the window.

Officers recovered Harris’ handgun that had a round in the chamber along with nine other rounds in the handgun’s magazine. The gun had been purchased by Harris back in 2017 at Modern Arms in Columbia.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department examined both Gainwell and Harris’ phones and found no correspondence between the two, according to the report.

Ahmonta Harris

Ahmonta Harris

Several people told the Boone County Sheriff’s Department that they had heard Harris was going to Gainwell’s residence to sell some concert tickets, according to the report. The investigators found no concert tickets at Gainwell’s residence.

The report concludes that “Harris’s decision to park so far away from the scene, hidden from view,” along with all of the evidence found outside of the structure and in Gainwell’s room “proves that Harris unlawfully entered Gainwell’s residence and attempted to rob Gainwell at gunpoint. Gainwell had every right, under the law, to use deadly force against Harris.”

“Further, the evidence proves that Gainwell did not commit a crime under Missouri law for shooting Harris. ... I believe it is important for citizens to understand the circumstances of this shooting and why Gainwell acted lawfully in shooting Harris,” Knight wrote.

Missourian reporter Hunter Gilbert contributed to this report.

  • Investigative and courthouse reporter. I am a senior pre-law student studying data journalism at The University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Reach me at or @ByHunterGilbert on Twitter

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