District Attorney Ben David announced Friday that two New Hanover County sheriff’s deputies and one federal agent were justified in the fatal shooting of 30-year-old Brandon Davone Smith.
Smith, who was wanted in connection with shooting officers in the Creekwood community days before his death, was shot and killed in the woods near Fulbright Street in Castle Hayne on Oct. 13.
Smith was wanted in New Hanover County on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection with the shooting that injured New Hanover County Detective Michael Spencer in the Creekwood community on Oct. 10.
According to David, no officer will be criminally charged in the Oct. 13 shooting.
At Friday’s press conference about the incident, Senior Assistant District Attorney Tom Old—who serves as a member of the shooting review team—read a summary of the facts from the investigation.
According to Old, between 4 and 5 p.m. Oct. 13, a sergeant with the sheriff’s office saw a 2012 dark Chevrolet Impala leaving a residence in the 2400 block of Princess Place Drive.
Detectives followed the vehicle—suspected of having Smith as a passenger—through the area and onto Castle Hayne Road, Old said. They chased the vehicle as it turned onto Carl Seitter Drive and then onto Fulbright Street where the vehicle stopped at the end of the road.
Officers reportedly saw Smith open the front passenger door of the vehicle, get out and run toward the woods at the end of Fulbright Street, Old said.
The officers immediately began to run after Smith, shouting “Sheriff’s office! Stop!,” Old said.
Two sheriff’s detectives and the federal agent were about 30 to 35 feet south of a ditch bank and wooded line that ran along the side of the yard west of Fullbright Street when they saw Smith apparently trying to conceal himself while lying on his side on the ground in the woods and facing the officers.
From that distance, the officers repeatedly asked Smith to show his hands, Old said.
During the encounter, Smith allegedly began to reach for something in the waistband of his pants. Eventually, he reportedly pulled out what was described as a dark object from his pants and “began to extend his arm and hand toward the officers so that the object would be pointing at them,” Old said.
Before Smith could fully extend his arm, the officers “simultaneously” shot at Smith, Old said.
According to David, in less than three seconds, from 30 to 35 feet away from Smith, the three officers fired 24 shots. Smith was struck by nine bullets, three grazed his body and 12 missed.
Smith fell over, and the officers stopped shooting and resumed yelling for him to show them his hands. Smith was still moving at the time, according to Old. One of the officers jumped across the ditch where Smith was located and handcuffed him.
An emergency responder pronounced Smith dead at the scene. A flip cell phone was found on the ground next to his hand.
No weapon was found on Smith at the time of the incident, and investigators have yet to find a weapon, according to New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon.
According to David, the second suspect in the vehicle who was apprehended during the incident made a statement to SBI agents and sheriff’s detectives that Smith had a black handgun in his possession the day of his death.
That suspect, 39-year-old Vincent Albert Joyner, the driver of the vehicle, was taken into custody and charged with felony accessory after the fact and speeding to elude arrest. He is being held at the New Hanover County Detection Facility under a $500,000 secured bond.
“The facts of this case—far from indicating any unreasonableness on the part of officers—indicate that they were acting completely and consistently with their training and experience, and with the laws of North Carolina and the federal laws,” David said. “They used deadly force when an extremely violent felon seemingly placed their lives in danger. And in so doing, were absolutely justified in taking Brandon Smith’s life. Officers do not need to be shot upon before they have the legal justification to use deadly force. If looking at all the facts and circumstances of this case, you can see that the deadly force was authorized.”
The law David cites–G.S. 15A-401(d)(2)–indicates an officer is justified in shooting “to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force; to effect an arrest or to prevent the escape of a person who he reasonably believes is attempting to escape by means of a deadly weapon, or who by his conduct or any other means indicates that he presents an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to others unless apprehended without delay.”
New Hanover County sheriff’s detectives E.K. Edwards and J.L. Jewell will return to work this week, McMahon said. The federal agent, employed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), has returned to full duty, according to ATF officials.
“We completed a very thorough internal affairs investigation. And I have reviewed those findings personally, and I am proud to say that our officers acted exactly how they’ve been trained and they followed all of the policies and procedures of the sheriff’s office,” McMahon said.
According to David, the county attorney’s office has received communication from an attorney reportedly representing Smith’s family.
“Consistent with my past policy, I am going to reach out to the civil attorney of the Smith family’s choosing, and invite that attorney to come into my office and meet with me…to answer any of their questions, and with the appropriate protections in place, to let them look at the entire SBI file and to give it to them if that’s ordered by the court,” David said.
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