NCCU police kill man who officials said twice fired a shotgun at them

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comSeptember 24, 2013 

— Shootings involving campus police officers, like the one that resulted in a man’s death at N.C. Central University late Monday, are rare in the state.

Of the nearly 450 shootings by police officers investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation since 2002, only three involved officers working with campus police departments.

By late Tuesday, NCCU officials had not released the name of the man who was killed. Three campus police officers shot the man after he twice fired a shotgun at them and then refused to surrender when a Durham police dog found him on the lawn of the School of Education, university officials said.

The events that led to the shooting began about 10:15 p.m. Monday, when Durham police reported that several people broke into a home near downtown and took firearms and other items. Durham police reported that the same group was responsible for an armed robbery of a person between downtown Durham and the NCCU campus.

NCCU Police Chief Timothy Bellamy said Durham police alerted his department about the burglary and armed robbery and provided a description of one of the suspects who had reportedly gotten off a DATA bus near campus.

Campus police ordered a lockdown because the man was thought to be armed. They found the man near the corner of Cecil and Lincoln streets, and he drew a shotgun from the waist of his pants when they began talking to him, according to an account released by NCCU officials Tuesday.

The man fired toward police, and they shot back, according to the university, and the man ran into a wooded area.

The police dog tracked the man to an area near the School of Education, and police again demanded he surrender. He fired again, and police shot him, the university said.

Bellamy said the entire confrontation between police and the man took a little less than 10 minutes.

The three NCCU police officers involved in the shooting have been put on administrative leave and the investigation turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation. Both steps are standard for any agency that has an officer-involved shooting.

Other campus police shootings

The shooting at NCCU was the third involving campus police officers in the state since March 13, 2010. That’s when Duke University police officers shot and killed Aaron Lorenzo Dorsey, 25, in front of the university hospital after he reportedly tried to grab one of the officers’ weapon.

On Nov. 5, 2011, a former Elizabeth City State University student, Rashaad Gardner, was shot by ECSU campus police after bringing an AK-47 assault rifle on campus. Gardner, 24 at the time, survived the shooting.

Bellamy noted that officers on all 16 of the state’s university campuses are armed. “They are all sworn officers with the same responsibilities and duties as sworn-in city officers and sheriff’s deputies,” he said.

In addition to uniformed officers, the NCCU police department also relies on a “Strike Team,” whose members dress in plain clothes to blend in with students and staff and keep a lookout for suspicious people on campus. The Strike Team was started five years ago, Bellamy said, after a large number of students on campus had been robbed or assaulted.

Bellamy said the number of robberies and assaults has sharply declined since then. He said the prevention efforts are necessary because NCCU is an open campus without bars, fences or other barriers to keep non-students out.

“Fences up, gates up, that’s a very unrealistic goal,” he said. “It would look more like a penitentiary than a university.”

Community meeting held

By early Tuesday afternoon, several lines of yellow police tape were still up along the side entrance of the School of Education building where the man confronted police before he was shot. SBI agents had spent much of the previous evening and morning collecting evidence from a small opening at the edge of the wooded area where the man was hiding. An unmarked police vehicle with damage to one of its headlamps was still parked alongside the curb where the standoff occurred.

Debra Saunders-White, NCCU chancellor, held a community meeting Tuesday morning to talk to students, faculty and staff about what happened.

“I applaud the NCCU Police for their responsiveness and vigilance in keeping our campus safe,” Saunders-White said in a statement. “NCCU is committed to supporting our community during this time.”

Questions about alert

But some students and one resident who lives across the street from the university questioned the siren used to alert students, which was followed by a voice announcement that stated the alert was only a test.

“Why would they say it was a test when there was a real emergency situation going on?” asked Jim Lee, a photographer and naturalist who lives across the street from the campus.

Bellamy explained that the siren was recently sounded as a test and that the message was still on the alert.

“When the system was activated, that’s what came out,” Bellamy said. “Did it cause any confusion? I don’t think so.”

The police chief and chancellor both noted that along with the siren, students and faculty members received a series of text messages and email alerts about the incident.

Lee was not impressed. “What if a student had been walking across campus without their cellphone, thinking it was just a test and run across this person?” he asked.

The shooting at NCCU follows an incident last week in which a Durham police officer shot and killed a man who had a handgun and pointed it toward police while hostage negotiators were trying to persuade him to surrender.

The SBI is investigating that shooting as well.

News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service