Local News

Spring Lake officer in limbo 11 months after shooting

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation, said Thursday agents are still investigating the June 18, 2007, shooting involving Officer Jose Garcia.

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SPRING LAKE, N.C. — Nearly a year after he was put on administrative leave for shooting a man, a Spring Lake police officer hasn't returned to patrol.

Officer Jose Garcia was serving a warrant on Shawn Smith, 36, of 106 Rupe St., on June 18 when Smith fled on foot. Garcia chased Smith behind First Baptist Church of Spring Lake and fired his .40-caliber Glock pistol when he saw Smith display what appeared to be a weapon.

Smith, 36, was shot twice, but later recovered from his injuries.

The State Bureau of Investigation investigated the case, as it does with all officer-involved shootings in North Carolina. No findings in the case have been handed over yet to the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office, which would determine whether any criminal charges were warranted.

Grady Dukes, a staff attorney for the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, said leaving the case unresolved for 47 weeks is "not unheard of, but unusual."

Since Garcia was placed on desk duty, two other law enforcement officers in the Fayetteville region involved in shootings were cleared of wrongdoing and returned to patrol within 19 weeks.

Garcia declined to comment Friday, referring all questions to his attorney.

His friend, Megan White, said she believes the officer is "caught in the crossfire" in a dispute between Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis and Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown.

The dispute grew from Grannis' decision last year to put the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office in charge of homicide investigations in Spring Lake, noting that the town's police force lacked manpower and experience.

“I think it’s a game. I think it’s a political issue between Mr. Grannis and the chief,” White said.

Grannis and Brown couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

White said Smith threatened Garcia with a brick, which justified the shooting.

“We knew it was going to take some time (for the SBI investigation), maybe two or three months,” she said. “But it’s been 47 weeks, which is more than enough time.”

Garcia has been assigned to a desk job since the shooting.

“Nine out of ten times, he’s sitting there,” White said. “He’s got nothing to do.”