The family of Willard Scott, who was shot and killed by a highway patrolman in Durham in February, gathered with local representatives of the NAACP on Saturday seeking answers in the thirty-one-year-old's death.
Since Scott was killed on February 12, family members have made frequent calls to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner asking when autopsy results will be available. "Soon," they're told.
"Junior did not have to die," said Scott's mother, Thomasine Hinson. "It has been almost five months since the day that he died. I have no more answers today than I did that day."
During a press conference Saturday in front of the Durham County court house, family members got more information than they were able to in weeks of organizing call-ins to the medical examiner. It came from a television reporter, reading an emailed statement from the medical examiner's office: The release of Willard's autopsy is being held up by pending toxicology results.
"We may not be here today had they told the family that," Roland Stanton, Durham NAACP President.
Still, Stanton says, the nearly five months Scott's family have waited for autopsy results is "breaking a record." During the press conference he listed how long it took to get results following other police shootings in Durham: sixty-seven days, forty-four, forty-nine, fifty-five, one hundred and thirty four days.
"As we stand here with you today we are at one hundred and forty days and counting for Willard," Stanton said.
A review by the State Bureau of Investigation can't be completed without the autopsy results, and District Attorney Roger Echols can't consider whether criminal charges are warranted without the SBI's report.
"The longer this goes, the worse it smells," Stanton said.
Scott was shot after Trooper Jerimy Mathis attempted to pull him over on Duke Street near Duke Regional Hospital for driving erratically. According to the state Highway Patrol, Mathis briefly pursued Scott in his car and when Scott got out of his vehicle and ran, Mathis chased him before firing his weapon. A gun that did not belong to the Highway Patrol was found at the scene, the agency said.
Scott was one of three people killed by law enforcement in Durham from November through February. Three days after his death, Durham police fatally shot Kenneth Bailey in the Club Boulevard neighborhood. Bailey's autopsy results were released April 21.
"For those who may ask how this could happen, simply like many other families in Durham, he died at the hands of a cop," Hinson said. " ... On that night, alone with no other witnesses, Officer Jerimy Mathis served as judge, jury and executioner. This is not right. The only person whose story will be told about that night is the officer's because my son is dead. Well I am here today to ensure my son's story will be told and is not forgotten."
More than a dozen family members, wearing T-shirts with Scott's picture and the words "Shots fired. Willard is down," stood in front of the courthouse, some holding poster board signs. Creative, talented, thinker, writer, read one with a drawing representing one of three books Scott had been writing when he was killed. Others showed a picture of a casket, a photo of Mathis, and the words "killer cops wanted for prosecution.
Two of Scott's brothers, Kevin and Asaad, read poems that were meaningful to Scott. Hinson recalled a son who called her goddess and always called to sing happy birthday.
"Willard was one of a kind, advanced beyond his years," she said. "He was willing to explore and push the limits and to selflessly serve a cause greater than himself."
In addition to the autopsy results, the family is asking for access to audio or video of the shooting, a transparent investigation, the full prosecution of Mathis if it is found that he acted improperly, and increased de-escalation training for state troopers.