The Fayetteville City Council is seeking police body camera footage of Lawrence Artis, a 29-year-old man who reportedly shot himself with a concealed weapon Oct. 2 while in custody of Fayetteville police officers and has since died.
The council on Monday approved a motion introduced by Councilman Mario Benavente to authorize the city attorney to request the release of footage to the public via a court order from the Cumberland County Superior Court.
The motion passed 8-1, with Councilwoman Kathy Jensen voting against it. Jensen did not say why she opposed the motion. Councilman Derrick Thompson was absent from the meeting because of his mother’s death, Mayor Mitch Colvin said.
According to a statement by the Fayetteville Police Department, officers responded to a report of shots fired from a ShotSpotter location in the 6900 block of Cliffdale Road on Oct. 2. When officers arrived, they saw a man, later identified as Artis, walking through an empty parking lot, the statement said.
Officers initially searched Artis, who was Black, and discovered a firearm that they confiscated after determining he was a convicted felon — making it illegal, under N.C. law, for him to possess a gun.
While handcuffed with his hands behind his back, police officers said Artis was able to reach for a second firearm concealed in his pants pocket and then shot himself. The officers involved — Justin DeHaan, Trent Folk and Ryan Hirschi — were placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation, police said.
During the public-comment period at Monday’s City Council meeting, local activists criticized the incident, emphasizing how the Police Department’s use of ShotSpotter — a controversial gunshot detection system recently deployed by the city — had played in the confrontation. Activists said ShotSpotter has disproportionately affected Black people.
“I also call on this council to immediately halt and rescind the ShotSpotter program before any other lives are taken,” said activist Shaun McMillan, who had argued against ShotSpotter when the council debated it last winter. “I remind all voters that this is what happens at the intersection of inequality and poverty. It's not something you can arrest or kill your way out of.”
Ahead of the upcoming City Council election, McMillan urged voters to replace the council members who had voted for the city’s implementation of ShotSpotter. Council members Shakeyla Ingram and Benavente voted against the city’s contract with ShotSpotter. Councilman Deno Hondros said he initially voted for ShotSpotter but later asked to revisit the vote and ultimiately withdrew his support.
“Another narrative that has been heard is that ShotSpotter seems to work because it got guns off our streets,” local business-owner Angela Malloy said during the public-comment period. “What it proves is that ShotSpotter will increase unnecessary shootings of Black folks as a result of its use.”
Artis died on Friday, according to an obituary published by CityView. Artis’ mother, Tahnesha Davis, shared her son’s obituary on Facebook Monday evening.
“I am announcing the information for my son Lawrence Artis,” she wrote. “If anyone has any questions, comments, donations, anything regarding him, please contact me in messenger inbox and I will respond!!!! I am grateful to all of you that loved him."
Speculation about the incident circulated on social media in the days that followed, with some questioning the Police Department’s delay in providing an update on the case after announcing that Artis was in critical condition. Police Chief Kemberle Braden told CityView on Monday night that he has not received official notice from the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that Artis died, despite the publication of his obituary.
“We don't give an update until we're officially cleared through the OCME, through the actual hospital,” Braden said.
“There's a litany of different reasons why someone may remain on life support for an extended period of time,” Braden continued. “I can't speak as to what or speculate as to what Mr. Artis’ situation is. I just know I haven't officially received any notification from a medical examiner or the hospital about Mr. Artis.”
Fayetteville police said the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate the case and the Police Department is also conducting an internal investigation of the incident.
Evey Weisblat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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