Roanoke Rapids, N.C. — The family of a Roanoke Rapids man shot to death by a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper over the weekend wants more answers about what led to the shooting.
The Highway Patrol says trooper Matt Pitman pulled over James Russell Moore, 64, Friday night on U.S. Highway 158 for suspicion of drunken driving.
Moore got out of the car with a loaded gun and pointed it at Pitman "in a threatening manner," they say. That’s when Pitman fired a shot, killing Moore.
But Moore's nephew, Brian Smith, insists his uncle never would have intentionally aimed a gun at a law enforcement officer.
The family wants to fight the perception that Moore was drunk and wielding a weapon when he died.
"It is the most devastating thing I've ever heard in my life," Smith said Monday on behalf of his family. "It's hard to believe because of who he was and how he's treated me and my whole family and all of his friends. It's just unfathomable that this could happen to this man."
Smith said Moore was a grandfather of two who was kind, well-respected in the community and had many friends, including police officers, two ex-girlfriends and his ex-wife. He said Moore didn't have a violent bone in his body.
"I totally do not believe it happened like that," he said. "The fact that (the Highway Patrol) is not coming to us and telling us anything leads me to believe that it can't be the way it was. He would not do that."
Pittman, 24, who was sworn in as a trooper in March 2011, has been placed on administrative leave while the State Bureau of Investigation reviews the matter, which is standard for officer-involved shootings.
Smith says he's not trying to place blame but wants to find out the truth.
"I don't want to tarnish (Pittman), because I don't know what happened. I do know what didn't happen," Smith said. "I don't know what he was thinking. I don't know if he overreacted. I don't know if he was malicious. I don't wish harm on him. I want justice."
Patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon said Pitman's cruiser was not equipped with a dashboard camera.
He said equipping each vehicle with a camera is an ongoing project because there are more than 2,000 troopers across the state and each camera costs $5,500.