An 18-year-old Black man was fatally shot by a cop at a funeral in North Carolina last November, and the man’s surviving family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming he was only trying to protect a mother and her son during a drive by shooting.
Fred Cox was attending the memorial service of Jonas Thompson, who had been killed, at the Living Water Baptist Church in High Point on Nov. 8. Davidson County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Shane Hill, who was investigating the killing, attended the funeral at the request of Thompson’s family, according to BuzzFeed News.
As the attendees left the service, shots were fired from a drive by shooting. At the time, Cox was sitting in his car in the parking lot nearby. He left his vehicle and ran into the church. He then held the door open for a mother and her child, who were trying to seek cover, according to the lawsuit. It was at that time that Hill shot him several times from behind. Cox died on the scene.
Ben Crump, who is representing Cox’s family, said during a press conference on Wednesday that “Fred is dead for being a hero while Black.”
Here is more on the story from Buzzfeed:
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the shooting, initially said that Hill had reported seeing Cox with a handgun at the time he shot him and that other witnesses had observed a handgun near him after he was shot.
However, Cox’s family and their attorneys have disputed that claim, saying he was unarmed.
A lawyer for the mother and the child who took cover inside the church said Wednesday that Cox could not have been holding a gun as he was using one hand to open the church door and his other to usher them inside during the shooting.
Crump said that Hill continued to shoot at all three of them and that the 12-year-old boy’s hand was grazed by a bullet.
“Fred Cox saved the mother and son’s lives before he fell, making sure they were safe inside the church before he tried to enter,” the complaint states.
Authorities also said there was no evidence Cox was in a gang or that he had discharged a weapon. But Hill will not face any criminal charges; a Guilford County grand jury decided not to indict him in June.
Attorneys for the Cox family said they believe Hill continues to be employed by the sheriff’s office and has faced no disciplinary actions for the shooting.
The sheriff’s office did not respond to requests for comment
The federal lawsuit, which was filed against the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Hill, seeks damages on six counts, including the use of excessive force, wrongful death, battery, and negligence, and the violation of Cox’s Fourth and 14th Amendments.
In addition to damages, the complaint also probes the Sheriff’s department, according to Channel News 12 ABC. The complaint claims there have been eight officer-involved shootings since 2014; six have been under current Sheriff Richie Simmons from 2019 to 2021.