A video leaked to The Intercept raises questions about the official police story in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Fayetteville, North Carolina man by a police officer following a traffic stop.
Nijza Lamar Hagans was shot by 24-year-old Officer Aaron Hunt, who claimed that he saw Hagans reach aggressively for a gun in his pants pocket as he opened his car door, according to a memo by the local district attorney, Billy West, which was also obtained by The Intercept.
The shooting happened in the early morning hours of January 14, 2013. The dash cam video was not released to the public and Fayetteville officials had been fighting to keep it from being released.
Hunt, who is Native American, was cleared of wrongdoing by Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West and is still an officer in Fayetteville.
According to West’s report, Hagans, who is black, had run a red light and then tried to evade the officer, before stopping in a driveway. Hunt approached the car and said he saw Hagans reach for a gun as he opened the door. The video confirms that Hagans did open the door, and shows that almost immediately upon the door being opened, Hunt opens fire. But the video for the first time reveals that the final two shots came as Hagans was running away from Hunt with his back turned.
The Intercept writes:
While many elements of the video corroborate the state’s outline of events, the circumstances surrounding the most disturbing moment in the footage — the last two shots — were wholly elided in District Attorney West’s report that cleared Hunt.
The district attorney’s memo appears to rely heavily on Hunt’s account of events and also omits a key finding from the state medical examiner’s report: two of the four bullets that hit Hagans entered through his back and rear shoulder.
West and city officials declined to comment on the video.
As The Intercept points out, police claim Hagans poised a threat to the officer while he was fleeing because he was carrying a loaded handgun. That makes the case different from that of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man who was gunned down by Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina, because Scott was not armed. Video showing Slager shooting Scott in the back from several yards away led to Slager’s arrest and a murder charge.
The Intercept also posted the full 32-minute version of the video: