Local News

Police Shootings on Rise in Durham

Posted January 18, 2008 7:27 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2008 7:54 p.m. EST

— Two people are dead and a third is injured – all shot by Durham police officers. In the past three months, there have been as many officer-involved shootings in Durham as the city usually has in a year.

The most recent was this week, when an off-duty officer shot Asaad Scott's brother.

“I don't think that it was necessary to shoot,” Scott said Friday.

Police say Willard Scott drew a gun on a group of people at an apartment complex, then pointed it at officers when they confronted him. His brother isn't so sure that is an accurate version of the story.

“Seeing that this isn't not only the first incident or the second, it kind of makes you uneasy about police,” Scott said.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez sees things very differently.

“I've had three officers whose lives were at risk,” Lopez said.

Lopez said it is disturbing to have three officer-related shootings in three months. He insists that the reason for the number of incidents is too many illegal guns on the streets.

“One thing that I find unsettling is the fact that these officers are encountering individuals who are armed and who apparently have a propensity to use it,” Lopez said.


The State Bureau of Investigation is looking at all three of the shootings, which is standard procedure when police use their guns. Lopez said he is confident those investigations will find the officers did nothing wrong.

“It's quite clear they were engaged by individuals who were armed and who were intent on committing a crime,” the chief said.

Lopez now plans to beef up the police unit dedicated to investigating crimes involving guns.

As for his officers' actions, Lopez says firing a weapon is always a last resort. It is, however, a step officers will take if their lives or others’ lives are in danger, he added.

Willard Scott was a convicted felon and by law was not supposed to have a gun.

While the investigation goes on, the three officers involved are all on administrative duty, also standard procedure.