North Carolina

‘We all need answers’: Protesters want NC governor to make statement on police shootings

Activists decry Raleigh Police shooting of man with mental illness

A celebration of the life of Soheil Mojarrad will be held Saturday. Activists criticize Raleigh Police after an officer fatally shot the man with mental illness last weekend.
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A celebration of the life of Soheil Mojarrad will be held Saturday. Activists criticize Raleigh Police after an officer fatally shot the man with mental illness last weekend.

Mallory Thornton stood along North Blount Street yelling at passing cars: “Tell them to stop killing us!”

Thornton, 30, stood in front of the governor’s mansion Saturday with the family, friends and supporters of three people who have been killed by law enforcement or security officers in the past year.

About 10 people gathered outside of Gov. Roy Cooper’s residence just after noon to protest the deaths of DeAndre Ballard, Soheil Mojarrad and Ondrae Hutchinson and to urge the governor to make a statement as a show of support for the families. The size of the protest grew over the next couple of hours.

“The justice system is failing us,” said Thornton, of Durham, who held two signs toward the street. “We all need answers.”

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Durham police identified a man found fatally shot in Durham on Sept 18, 2018, as DeAndre Marquise Ballard, 23, a student at N.C. Central University. NCCU

They want answers to many questions, she said, and dispute the circumstances around their loved ones’ deaths. That includes why police or security guards didn’t used different tactics, like a baton or a Taser, in cases where the men were either unarmed or had a knife.

In a statement released before the rally, protesters said the men’s deaths represent a larger issue related to policing poor, minority communities and could have been prevented if law enforcement used non-violent de-escalation tactics.

“The families are pushing for a fair investigation in each case and accountability throughout the process,” according to the statement. “The families recognize that all three deaths are not isolated but rather stem larger, systemic issues with the policing of marginalized folks.”

Ballard, a 23-year-old NCCU senior, was shot by and killed Sept. 17, 2018, by a security guard at Campus Crossings, an off-campus apartment complex in Durham. The guard told police he shot Ballard in self-defense and that Ballard had reached for a gun.

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Soheil Antonio Mojarrad CCBI

Saturday, Ballard’s uncle, Miguel Staten of Durham, said he hopes Cooper will put pressure on the cities where the killings occurred to be more transparent and straightforward about what happened.

“I was hoping he would say something to let us know that he stands with us and that he supports us on this,” Staten said.

Mojarrad, 30, was shot and killed by a Raleigh police officer on April 20 at a shopping center in East Raleigh. A police report on the shooting indicated that Mojarrad moved toward police with a knife, The News & Observer reported.

Mojarrad struggled with mental illness that was compounded by a traumatic brain injury, his mother told The News & Observer. The officer didn’t turn on his body camera before the shooting, which raised concerns in the community and resulted in a change in the agency’s body-camara policy.

An edited version of a 911 call and radio traffic released by Raleigh police from an officer-involved shooting on April 20, 2019. Calls reveal that the man killed in the incident, Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, had a knife.

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Ondrae Hutchinson, 30, was shot by a Durham Police officer on March 30 after his girlfriend reported a domestic dispute. A report on the shooting says an officer shot Hutchinson during a struggle in which he tried to grab an officer’s gun. Contributed

Cate Edwards, the family’s lawyer, said in a statement that the officer didn’t follow proper procedure including “the appropriate escalation of force,” and the officer wasn’t justified in the shooting, The News & Observer reported.

Hutchinson, 30, was shot by a Durham Police officer on March 30 after his girlfriend reported a domestic dispute. A report on the shooting says an officer shot Hutchinson during a struggle in which he tried to grab an officer’s gun.

Vanrea Lynch, Hutchinson’s mother, said the scenario outlined in the report doesn’t makes sense. She wants to know why police weren’t trained to use less force, she said.

“I am out here not just for my son,” said Lynch, 50, of Covington, Ga. “But for all of the people who have lost their loved ones.”

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