The family of a man fatally shot by a state trooper after a foot chase Feb. 12 has released a statement, saying he could not have run fast because of a prior police-shooting injury and did not have to die.
The statement from Willard Eugene “Junior” Scott Jr.’s mother, Thomasine Hinson, and other family members, sent to elected officials, was released by the Durham NAACP.
“For those who may ask how could this happen, simply like many other families in Durham, he died at the hands of a cop,” it stated. “Willard did not have to die. In 2008, he met an off-duty cop moonlighting at Carriage House Apartments and he was shot by the Durham Police in his thigh muscle with a .38 caliber bullet. The charges against Willard were later dropped. How convenient.
“In this Highway Patrol instance, again we say he did not have to die. He could not run that fast because of his injury. ... What can be done to honor, Willard? We have one simple request: to get justice.”
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Patty McQuillan, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, said the Highway Patrol had no response at this time to Hinson and the Scott family’s statement.
“Since this is still an active investigation, it would be inappropriate for the department to comment,” she said Thursday.
Scott’s death was the second fatal shooting by law enforcement in Durham County that week.
On Feb. 15, police fatally shot Kenneth Lee Bailey Jr. when they say he pointed a gun at officers trying to arrest him for violating his pretrial release curfew.
Bailey, 24, was awaiting trial on charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony conspiracy and faced an indictment for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, police said.
At the time of his death, Scott, 31, faced charges for a Dec. 12 incident in which he punched a woman in the face making her bleed and grabbed and pushed a police officer, according to an arrest warrant.
In 2008, officers at a Durham apartment complex responded when told Scott was pointing a gun at a vehicle with four people inside. They ordered Scott to drop the gun, but police said he walked toward them holding the gun and was shot in the leg. A .38-caliber revolver was found at the scene.
Scott was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, four counts of assault by pointing a gun, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of marijuana with the intent to manufacture, sell or deliver. The charges were eventually dismissed, records indicate.
In the Feb. 12 shooting, Scott was driving on Duke Street near Duke Regional Hospital when Trooper Jerimy Mathis tried to stop him around 1:05 a.m. for a lane violation and driving erratically, according to a State Highway Patrol release. After a brief pursuit, Scott got out of the car and ran.
“During the foot pursuit an armed confrontation ensued, “ the release stated.
Scott died at Duke Regional Hospital.
Preliminary reports show a black handgun was found on the scene, according to the State Bureau of Investigation, which will release its report on the shooting to District Attorney Roger Echols when it is finished.
Mathis, a trooper since 2010, doesn't appear to have any suspensions or demotions during his tenure, according to information provided by the Highway Patrol. He remains on paid administrative leave, McQuillan said.
The two February shootings marked the second and third law-enforcement-involved fatalities in Durham County since November.
On Nov. 22 three Durham police officers were involved in the incident that led to the fatal shooting of Frank Nathaniel Clark, 34, at the McDougald Terrace public housing community.
Echols says he expects to complete his review of the SBI report on that case by next week.
Scott’s family’s statement
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Willard Scott has passed away following a gunshot wound from State Trooper Jerimy Mathis. He was 31. He died too soon.
“Willard was our loving husband, son, grandson, brother and friend. He was a writer. He had in process three books. He also wrote lyrics for several well-known artists.
“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life with his family. Willard was one of a kind; advanced. beyond his years. He was a hard worker. He was willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than himself.
“For those who may ask how could this happen. Simply like many other families in Durham, he died at the hands of a cop. Willard did not have to die. In 2008, he met an off-duty cop moonlighting at Carriage House Apartments and he was shot by the Durham Police in his thigh muscle with a .38 caliber bullet. The charges against Willard were later dropped. How convenient.
“In this highway patrol instance, again we say he did not have to die. He could not run that fast because of his injury. ... What can be done to honor, Willard? We have one simple request: to get justice.”