State News

Chief: Man fatally shot in struggle with patrolling officers

Posted November 22

— A man was shot to death by police patrolling a public housing complex Tuesday after officers said he made a sudden move toward his waistband while being questioned, prompting a struggle, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis said.

Authorities aren't sure why the officers stopped to question the man, how many shots were fired or how many officers used their guns, Davis said.

A gun that didn't belong to the officers was found by the man's body, "but I can't say that weapon was fired," Davis said at a news conference.

Davis urged anyone with cellphone video of the shooting to call authorities. The shooting, which happened on a sidewalk in front of a duplex and across the street from a larger apartment building, was not captured on any police dashboard cameras, and the Durham City Council only approved money for body cameras for officers Monday.

The officers — all members of the police department's violent crime team — were patrolling the complex because robberies and other violent crimes recently increased by 20 percent in that area, Davis said.

The names of the officers and the man killed were not released; nor were their races. The State Bureau of Investigation is taking over the investigation, she said.

One officer suffered a minor leg injury but was not shot, the chief said.

The shooting happened in McDougald Terrace, which the Durham Housing Authority describes as the city's largest conventional public housing community, with 360 apartments. The community is several blocks from an entrance to North Carolina Central University, a historically black college.

The officers had been patrolling McDougald Terrace in an unmarked car but were wearing their uniforms. They were familiar with the area and had been spending time reaching out to community leaders to address the rise in crime, Davis said.

Davis went to the shooting scene to talk to people before her news conference and said she hopes the department's efforts to be a positive presence would prevent any protests.

"The relationship we are attempting to build in Durham is one that is collaborative, inclusive and transparent," Davis said.

Wilma Harris, a retired housekeeper, said police and the Durham City Council need to do more to keep the neighborhood safe. She said neither is trying to help the residents.

"The law enforcement don't care," said Harris, 57. "They could stop these young men, stop them from sitting around, standing around, and most of them don't even live over here. The majority of the time, it's not the residents."

By sunset, a police officer was seen taking down some of the crime scene tape. Groups of people had been standing in various locations throughout the housing project. As they stood, young children got off school buses to be met by parents who guided them underneath the crime scene tape and toward their respective homes.

In September 2015, community activists in Durham were angered when officers negotiating with a suicidal man for 30 minutes shot and killed him when he pointed an air gun that resembled a handgun at police. And in November 2013, a 17-year-old man shot himself in the face while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. Authorities ruled the death a suicide and no one was charged.

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Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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