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Family of man shot and killed by police on Thanksgiving seeks ‘justice’

Fayetteville police data shows racial disparities in traffic stops  


After Fayetteville police officer Dillon Hoke shot and killed DeMarcus Brodie on Thanksgiving, Brodie’s family is still looking for answers.

How did a routine traffic stop escalate into the officer taking the life of Brodie, a 49-year-old Black man? 

“The words can't even describe how I feel right now,” Anita McSwain, an aunt whom Brodie lived with, told CityView. “I'm still in shock, empty, angry. The police department took my baby's life on Thanksgiving Day.”

Hoke, who is white, fatally shot Brodie in front of the Crown Fried Chicken on Murchison Road, just under a mile from where Brodie lived with Anita. Brodie was shot half an hour before the family was planning to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together.  

According to the Fayetteville Police Department, Brodie was pulled over and assaulted officers when they attempted to detain him. The police department has not said why Brodie was pulled over or what led to him being detained. 

“During the course of the traffic stop, officers attempted to detain Brodie,” Fayetteville Police Chief Kemberle Braden said in a press conference last Friday. “Brodie resisted these efforts and began assaulting officers. Officers attempted de-escalation techniques to include hands-on and less lethal force to include use of a taser. As Brodie continued to assault officers, officer Hope discharged his weapon.”

Brodie’s family said neither police nor medical personnel alerted them that Brodie had been shot, nor that he'd died. Instead, a neighbor, whom Anita didn't know, knocked on her door to inform the family “there's somebody that got shot that in this house."

Anita was shocked and confused — Brodie had only left the house minutes prior, she said. She immediately circled the block to the crime scene only to find that the street was blocked off by several police cars, and her nephew was not there. She said she was told by a police officer Brodie had already been taken to the hospital, but she was given no additional information. 

“I went up there to the crime scene, and no one told me anything,” Anita said. “I tried to ask the police that, ‘I'm his aunt, he lived here with me. What happened?’ And no one replied.” 

The police department released a statement the day of the shooting stating that the name of the victim was being withheld until the family was notified. A week later, the family members say they have still not been contacted by the Fayetteville Police Department. The police department released Brodie’s name on Nov. 24. 

“My thing is that what bothers me is that nobody called,” Anita said. “You got a dead family member on the ground and you didn't even have the courage to call his family and identify him.” 

After leaving the crime scene, Anita regrouped with family members, including her sister Stephanie McSwain and brother Ronald "Ronnie" McSwain, as well as Brodie’s father, to go to the hospital and try to see their nephew. However, upon arriving, the family said they were again turned away. 

“We couldn't go in,” Anita said. “I couldn't even put eyes on him.”

The police department declined to comment on whether the family had been notified, referring all further questions to the SBI, which is conducting an investigation into the incident. 

Stephanie said the family is determined to find out the truth behind Brodie’s killing. 

“Justice shall prevail, and we as a family, as a whole, we definitely do want justice for DeMarcus,” Stephanie said. 

The family said it has not been able to see Brodie’s body since his death; an autopsy was completed in Raleigh. Family members said he was returned to Fayetteville to the medical examiner’s office to complete the final paperwork late this week. 

“Next time we'll be seeing him, we'll be at the funeral getting him prepped and getting him ready for the funeral,” Anita said. 

An unclear timeline

Brodie had not told family where he was going when he left his aunt’s house, family members said, but they didn’t expect him to be gone long. 

“Normally he would go to the store up there or something and come right back,” Anita said. “Because he knew dinner started at 5, so I just thought maybe he might have ran to the store and getting ready to come back.”

The timeline of Brodie’s stop and his death remains unclear. In a press conference the day after the shooting, Braden referred to the incident as a “rapidly evolving event.” 

“There was minimal time from the time that Mr. Brodie stopped and things escalated,” Braden said. 

Hoke was transported to the hospital and treated for his injuries after the incident, police said. 

The parking lot where Brodie pulled into during the traffic stop.
The parking lot where Brodie pulled into during the traffic stop.

Several neighbors said they had heard one gunshot and came outside to see a number of police officers and cars. A bystander at the incident, who posted a livestream to social media, claimed to have seen Brodie exit the vehicle and run out of his car after being pulled over, but that occured prior to the filming of the video. The video shows the aftermath of the shooting, with police and emergency services personnel wheeling Brodie into an ambulance. Brodie’s shirt is covered in blood and he is not moving. 

During the press conference, Braden said he was “unsure” whether Brodie was pronounced dead at the scene or at the hospital.

Family members told CityView Brodie suffered from a mental illness, and he may have been experiencing an episode during the altercation with police. 

Police said a preliminary investigation showed a knife was located on scene, but didn't clarify details about the knife or its use. 

Councilmember Mario Benavente criticized the ambiguity surrounding the police’s statement about the knife. 

“When there's questions about whether this individual was armed or brandished a knife, I feel like the public is being misled with the facts that have currently been released,” Benavente told CityView. “Whenever the facts around a case sort of support the narrative of law enforcement, those details are put up front. Details that may be less than favorable to the police narrative — we hide behind the State Bureau of Investigation and say that, ‘Hey, it's up to them to release that detail.’”

Racial disparities in traffic stops

Just a few days after the shooting, Braden, the police chief, delivered the quarterly police report to the Fayetteville City Council, which included the latest data on traffic stops and use-of-force incidents in Fayetteville. The data reflected a racial disparity in both cases, with Black people disproportionately represented in traffic stops and use-of-force incidents. 

Of the traffic stops between January and September, Black drivers made up 64% of stops (22,557), white drivers made up 32% (11,237) and drivers of other races made up 4% (1,353). Of the 61 use-of-force incidents counted from January to September, Black men were involved in 39 of the incidents while white men were involved in nine of the incidents. Black women were involved in six incidents while white women were involved in one of the incidents. Other races made up the other six incidents. 

The disproportionate rate at which Black people in Fayetteville are stopped by law enforcement also mirrors national trends.

The Nov. 23 fatal police shooting of a Black person by a law enforcement officer is the first this year in Fayetteville, though two shootings by officers occurred in 2022. Jada Johnson, a 22-year-old Black woman, was shot 17 times by a Fayetteville police officer in July 2022 while experiencing a mental health crisis in her home. Jason Walker, a 37-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by an off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff’s deputy in January 2022. 

Anita said her nephew’s death underscores why members of the Black community often feel unsafe around police. 

According to Mapping Police Violence, a website that tracks police killings across the country, Black people face disproportionate rates of violence at the hands of police officers, and are three times as likely as white people to be killed by police. In 2022, police killed at least 1,201 people, and Black people made up 26% of those killed by police, despite making up 13% of the U.S. population.

Dianna Gamble, a family friend of Anita and resident of the Murchison Road neighborhood, said she was saddened by the shooting — especially because it happened on Thanksgiving. The incident, she said, also exemplifies frequent violent interactions with police experienced by Black people. 

“It ain't nothing new under the sun,” Gamble said. “We go through this all the time, but this one here just kind of touched my heart a little bit, because it was on Thanksgiving Day. That's why it touched my heart.” 

Demarcus Brodie

His aunts and uncle described Brodie as a deeply faithful person who was eager to help and serve his family. Brodie, they said, referred to his aunts as “queens,” and even bought them golden keychain crowns. They said he came from a “royal” family. 

While he was mostly soft-spoken, his family said Brodie particularly enjoyed immersing himself in gospel rap music while in his car. He also made music himself, including a song he once wrote that he dedicated to a cousin who had passed away, Anita said. 

“He was my hero,” Anita said. “I loved my DeMarcus. I loved the way he would always want to be helpful: ‘Auntie, is there anything around the house you need help with? I'm there.’ He was very helpful. Kept the kitchen clean, kept the yards up. And always very helpful and clean. So I'm going to miss him.”

His family described DeMarcus Brodie as hardworking.
His family described DeMarcus Brodie as hardworking.

Brodie’s aunts said he worked construction jobs that required him to be up early in the morning. Stephanie said he was intelligent, a “high achiever” and had “outstanding academic grades” in school and played football.

“He had a unique talent about him, meaning that his giftings were blessings from the Lord,” Stephanie said. “And he was very talented. He’s going to be very much missed.”

Brodie’s uncle, Ronnie, said he spoke to Brodie Thanksgiving morning, just a few hours before his nephew was killed. Ronnie said the two had dropped off donations that morning, and returned to Ronnie's house, where Brodie gave him a haircut. During the haircut, they shared a deep conversation about faith. 

“And I mean, he was just fired up about the Lord, and he was just letting me know that no matter what, that I want to get it right with God, I want to do what's right,” Ronnie said. “So it was a very powerful conversation.” 

Ronnie said that though there are “so many questions that’s unanswered” about Brodie’s death, he doesn’t want to speak ill of the Fayetteville police or the officer who shot Brodie — and that he's praying for the officer that shot Brodie. 

‘We just want peace’ 

The incident is being investigated by the SBI, which will turn over its findings to the local district attorney. The attorney will decide whether to prosecute Hoke. 

Brodie’s family members say they're hoping to get greater clarity on Brodie’s killing and get access to the body camera footage of the incident. Under North Carolina law, bodycam footage is not considered public record, but the family can petition the superior court to have it released. 

Benavente also advocated for the city council to try and petition for the footage to be made public. 

“I think that there's some details in that body cam footage that the people deserve to see and hear about,” Benavente said. “So how do I get that to happen? With my colleagues in mind, it's going to be an uphill sort of ask, but my understanding is that —  from just the media that I've seen —  the family is interested in having justice be sought after.”

Brodie’s family said they're determined to seek justice in a way that will bring them peace. 

“We just want peace,” Anita said. “We want peace to come about with all this situation, and we want justice. But the thing I can't get out of my head is that, why did you have to shoot him in the chest? You could have shot him anywhere else.” 

Stephanie said that, though the family is “devastated,” she’s trying not to turn away from her grief. 

“But just to sum it up with the process, we have to feel what we feel and not suppress it down,” Stephanie said. “We have to express how we feel, and we're sad. We're hurt at this moment in our life because we lost a loved one at the hands of, looking at it overall, a police officer that had the mindset to kill.”

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608.

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police, shooting, Fayetteville Police Department, DeMarcus Brodie, police violence, officer