Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Four years after being shot, ‘hero’ deputy still waiting on New Hanover County settlement

Mike Spencer was shot four years ago in the line of duty. His workman's compensation case is still pending. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY WILLIAM O'BRIEN)
Mike Spencer was shot four years ago in the line of duty. His workman’s compensation case is still pending. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY WILLIAM O’BRIEN)

WILMINGTON — Four years ago, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Spencer was shot while pursuing a gang member in the Creekwood neighborhood of Wilmington. The bullet shattered Spencer’s femur, effectively ending his law enforcement career and leaving him in physical and emotional pain. But after four years the county has yet to settle his worker’s compensation case.

The shooting happened in the early afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. Spencer, who was assigned to the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, was shot; authorities believe the gunman was Brandon Devone Smith, a validated member of the United  Blood Nation. Smith was killed three days later in a shootout with New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies and an ATF agent.

Spencer was later awarded the FBI Star for his actions that day, according to Shelley Lynch, public affairs officer for the FBI’s office in Charlotte.

Michael Allen Spencer was awarded the FBI Star for actions he took on the day he was shot. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY WILLIAM O'BRIEN)
Michael Allen Spencer was awarded the FBI Star for actions he took on the day he was shot. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY WILLIAM O’BRIEN)

Four years later, New Hanover County still hasn’t settled the case

However, despite the commendations from the FBI, Spencer is still in legal limbo. According to Jessica Loeper, communication and outreach director for New Hanover County, Spencer’s case is still open but, “(b)ecause this is a personnel/Workers Comp issue, the county will not be able to provide any other information.”

Michael Spencer also declined to comment on the case, citing the advice of his attorney. Spencer would say that, nearly four years to the day after he was shot, he is still struggling.

“I’m in pain every day of my life,” Spencer said. “Mentally and physically.”

Spencer added that was not involved with the recent Facebook campaign advocating for a settlement in his worker’s compensation, saying he preferred to “keep a low profile.”

The 'Stand with India 36' campaign was started to facilitate Michael Spencer's workman's compensation settlement. 'India 36' was Spencer's callsign according to William O'Brien, who started the campaign. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY WILLIAM O'BRIEN)
The ‘Stand with India 36’ campaign was started to facilitate Michael Spencer’s worker’s compensation settlement. ‘India 36’ was Spencer’s callsign according to William O’Brien, who started the campaign. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY WILLIAM O’BRIEN)

The India 36 Campaign

William Bill O’Brien, the man who did start the Facebook campaign, was more outspoken.

“The county has done its level best to give him a hard time. That gunshot wound ended his law enforcement career, it nearly ended his life. They offered him $5,000 to walk away. That’s it,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien, a former narcotics investigator with the Burgaw Police Department, met Spencer while working on a case involving motorcycle gangs; Spencer was attached the FBI task force in Wilmington at the time. O’Brien expressed his disappointment that Sheriff Ed McMahon had not taken a more active role in urging the county to settle with Spencer.

“Wilmington Police Chief Evangelous has gone down several times to stand next to his officers. Why won’t the Sheriff do the same thing?”

O’Brien contrasted the $5,000 with larger – and higher profiles – settlements the county has made, enumerating them on his Facebook page. Two included the cases of Dennis Debock and Jean McNeil.

“On March 6, 2015, the county settled with Dennis Debock for $15,000. This stemmed from what amounted to an illegal search on a suspect during a traffic stop,” O’Brien wrote. “In December of 2012, former Animal Control Supervisor, Jean McNeil, was awarded a settlement of $120,000. This came after she was fired over questioning the pay of county employees under her.”

Response from the Sheriff’s Office

According to Lt. Jerry Brewer, the Sheriff’s Office could not comment on the specifics of Spencer’s worker’s compensation case, because the office does not handle those cases. However, Sheriff McMahon did issue a statement.

“Mike Spencer is a hero. He was shot and wounded in the line of duty while investigating gang activity.  Mike had a great career here at the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.  I hope that he and the County can come to an agreement that is best for both Mike and his future,” McMahon said.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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