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DA: Durham Officer Was Justified in Fatal Shooting

Posted April 18, 2008

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— A police officer who shot and killed a teenager last November had "legitimate fear for his safety and was justified in firing his weapon," Durham's district attorney said Friday.

Durham police officer Brian D. Opitz shot Samuel Reyes Uscanga, 16, of Greensboro, on Nov. 6 outside the Durham County Library. The shooting followed a robbery and carjacking in Raleigh and an attempted robbery and 10-minute chase in eastern Durham.

During a foot chase in which Opitz asked Uscanga to stop running, the 16-year-old raised a .380 caliber handgun at the officer and continued to run away, District Attorney David Saacks said in a news release.

Opitz fired twice, hitting Uscanga in the upper left shoulder and once in the chest. He was pronounced dead at Duke University Hospital.

"At the time of the foot chase at the library, Officer Optiz had already been informed of the carjacking in Raleigh and the attempted armed robbery in Durham, as had other officers as well," Saacks said.

"This information, along with the attempt to flee, the presence of the gun in Mr. Uscanga's hand, and his actions in turning towards (sic) Officer Opitz, are the main factors in this decision to find this incident to be a justified use of deadly force."