Officer shot Graham man accidentally or in self-defense, district attorney says; suspect was not armed

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GRAHAM, N.C. — District Attorney Sean Boone shared new details on Friday, months after a man was shot and killed by police in Graham.

Jaquyn Oneill Light, 20, of Graham, was killed after he allegedly tried to run from police on Jan. 28. Officer did not reveal until Friday that Light was not in possession of a gun.

The shooting prompted an investigation per protocol.

The district attorney said Friday the investigation concluded that Light had likely heard officers in the home and went out the front door where he likely believed there were no police.

The district attorney believes that Light unintentionally collided with Officer Marcus Pollock.

Boone said the shooting was either accidental or in self-defense. Both are consistent with the evidence, he said. Pollock will not face charges.

Evidence shows Light was not shot in the back, Boone said.

The district attorney said he believes the more likely conclusion is that the shot was fired accidentally.

Light’s mother told FOX8 she spoke with the district attorney Thursday, but she feels she still doesn’t know what really happened because Officer Pollock’s camera was not on.

She said she went to the home at night to see for herself what the lighting conditions were, and feels like it isn’t too dark to see what was going on.

His mother described Light as a good brother and future father. She said Light was a good kid who did well in school.

Samantha Batten, Light’s child’s mother said she was upset by the decision, and the announcement forces her to relive what happened seven months ago.

“Me and my daughter were watching the video, and obviously she’s not old enough to understand, but I feel like she knows what’s going on. That’s the hardest part,” Batten said. “I guess some people thought because he had charges, and he was on the run that he was a bad person, but he wasn’t. He was the best person I met in my life.”

At about 11:28 p.m. Jan. 28, police were responding to 716 E. Elm St to serve a warrant after receiving an anonymous tip that Light was at the address, police said at a Jan. 29 news conference.

Light was wanted for two felony probation violation, misdemeanor communicating threats and misdemeanor simple assault.

Three officers were on scene speaking with a person at the back of the home when an officer saw Light inside the home, police say.

The front of the home was covered in black plastic which meant the only light in the area came from street lights and the front of the home was dark.

Light allegedly ran through the plastic on the front side of the home and encountered Officer Marcus Pollock who was standing out front.

Pollock reportedly said “Graham police” before ordering Light to stop. Light then accidentally collided with the officer, Boone said.

The two struggled for about 20 to 25 feet. Pollock brought Light to the ground and, in the process, dropped his weapon.

During this interaction, Pollock fired a gun, hitting the man, police said.

The gunshot struck Light on the “left side of the abdomen,” Boone said.

Light did not have a weapon, the district attorney confirmed.

The medical examiner said the shooting likely happened a couple inches to a couple of feet away.

“The SBI is conducting the criminal investigation at this part. The only people that witnessed the discharge of the firearm were the officer and Mr. Light,” Lt. Daniel Sisk said.

Light was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

No officers were injured.

Officer Pollock’s body-worn camera was not activated until after the shooting and ran for about 10 minutes. Another officer at the scene had activated his camera upon exiting his patrol car and ran for about an hour.

Neighbors told FOX8 the area was typically quiet, and they hadn’t heard anything leading up to the shooting.

“I am concerned that someone was shot in the area, this close to my house, but I’m more concerned that I didn’t hear it,” said Karen Pollock, who lives near the home.

Marcus Pollock was placed on administrative leave while SBI investigates.

Graham police say it has been about 20 years since someone was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Graham.

“It is not a small matter to be responsible for taking a life,” Chief Jeff Prichard said. He announced during a news conference on Jan. 29 that he will meet with Light’s family to discuss what happened.

Interim Police Chief Kristi Cole released the following statement on Friday afternoon:

Earlier today, Sean Boone, the District Attorney in Alamance County, released his findings related to the officer involved shooting death of Mr. Jaquyn Light.  That tragic event took place on January 28th, 2020 at about 11:28 pm. 

In my role as the Interim Chief, and on behalf of the entire Graham Police Department, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Jaquyn Light.  The sudden loss of a family member is difficult under any circumstance, and it is particularly painful when the police are involved in the death of a family member.

On January 28th, the Graham PD received a Crimestoppers tip regarding a subject wanted on outstanding warrants.  We were told the individual was located at a family member’s home at 716 E. Elm St. Officers confirmed the details of the tip and went to the house.

Two officers, Corporal Scoggins and Officer Land, knocked and spoke with the residents.  At the same time, Officer Pollock approached a covered patio on the opposite side of the house.  The patio was in a dark area and covered with thick, dark plastic.  As the officers spoke with occupants of the residence, Mr. Light was attempting to avoid detection and crawled out from under the plastic.  As he turned, presumably to flee, he ran into and contacted Officer Pollock.  At this time, Officer Pollock’s weapon discharged striking Mr. Light in his abdomen.

The three officers on scene quickly called for Emergency Medical Services and attempted to render first aid.  Mr. Light was transported to the hospital and later died of his injury.

Based on our standard practice, Officer Pollock was placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation into this incident.  We contacted the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to conduct an independent and objective investigation into this incident. They recently concluded their investigation and forwarded the results to the District Attorney.  Our internal investigation was on hold pending the outcome of these investigations and we will look to finalize our review in the coming weeks.

As stated in his press conference today, the District Attorney has concluded that no criminal charges will be filed against Officer Pollock.  

Officer Marcus Pollock has been a police officer for over 20 years.  He joined our agency in August 2017, and he has been serving in Graham for more than three years.  During this time, he has received positive performance evaluations and has had no complaints for excessive uses of force.  

At the conclusion of the press conference by the District Attorney, Mr. Boone indicated that he had a court order to publicly release one body worn camera recording that runs 4 minutes and 30 seconds. This video was recorded by Corporal Scoggins as he entered the house and then moved to the area where Mr. Light was shot.

North Carolina statute, NCGS 132-1.4 A (g), covers the release of police video and is very restrictive.  These restrictions during the on-going SBI investigation have impacted our ability to release our videos.  We have also been sensitive to the content and the feelings of the family.  We are willing to release additional video in consultation with the family and District Attorney.

As a part of our investigation it was determined that Officer Pollock’s camera was not activated at the time of this incident.  The Graham Police Department has a policy that requires officer’s to activate their body worn cameras for all arrests to include warrant service.  Additional training will be provided to all of our officers regarding the importance of this policy in particular to trust and transparency in modern policing.

Any time a life is taken by a sworn police officer the event is subjected to great scrutiny from both a criminal and police policy perspective.  The loss of life in this circumstance is not taken lightly.  As an agency we strive to serve the members of our community with professionalism in order to create a safe environment.  Sometimes the after-the-fact analysis of police action reveals areas where perhaps things could have been done differently.  We are committed to conducting that analysis here, and to providing our officers with additional training resources as needed.   

The Graham Police Department is committed to constant improvement as a police agency.  We have learned from this event and are implementing training advancements as we protect the residents in Graham. 

In this volatile time in America, we ask for continued collaboration with our department to improve and ensure professional police services.  We are proud to be part of a community that holds us accountable for our actions and we welcome any dialogue from the community that will help us be better.

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