The family of an 18-year-old North Carolina man shot and killed by a Davidson County Sheriff’s deputy last year has filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and the deputy who shot him.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced at a news conference on Wednesday that a civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Fred Cox’s family eight months after the teen was shot four times by Davidson County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hill.
“Make no mistake, there should have been no force,” said lawyer Antonio Romanucci, who is also representing the family. “This course was not justified in any way, shape or form.”
A medical examiner ruled Cox’s death a homicide. The family announced they would be filing a suit after they were informed in June that Hill would not face any charges in Cox’s death.
Guilford County District Attorney Avery Crump told the family in June that grand jury had opted not to bring charges against the deputy.
The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement about the decision, “After a systematic and thorough investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, the Frederick Cox case was presented to the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office. As this seven months long investigation unfolded, and has now come to a conclusion, we have learned that no probable cause was found to charge our Deputy in the death of Mr. Cox.”
On Nov. 8, 2020, Cox was attending a funeral at Living Water Baptist Church, in High Point, North Carolina. People were leaving the service when individuals pulled up in cars and began shooting at the crowd. Family attorney Allen Rogers said in March that Cox was in his vehicle when the shooting started, and got out to help bring people to safety, holding the door of the church open for a mother and her 12-year-old son.
BuzzFeed, citing the family’s legal filing, says Cox had gone from his car on another side of the building from the shooters back to the church and was holding the door for the mother and son when Hill began firing.
Crump echoed the sentiment that Cox was acting as a hero prior to his death, saying he was shielding a 12-year-old-boy when he was shot by Hill, who was in plainclothes.
“He’s going into a church trying to get people out of harm’s way,” said Crump. “But the police shoot and kill him.” He continued, “Fred is dead for being a hero while Black.”
In a report released 10 days after the shooting, State Bureau Investigators said Hill had been asked to attend the funeral, which was being held for a young man who had been killed. The victim’s family had asked Hill to attend in hopes that Hill would be able to identify witnesses of the shooting, according to the report.
Hill saw Cox with a handgun next to him, the report says, and High Point police say Cox was gang-affiliated. Cox was the only person who died during the violence that day. The family has said he was unarmed.
The lawsuit cites six counts, including excessive force, wrongful death, battery, negligence, and the violation of Cox’s Fourth and 14th Amendments. It also calls for a jury trial.
According to the suit, Hill used “unreasonable and deadly force” on Cox while he was “saving the lives of a mother and her young son.”
Tenicka Shannon, whose son Cox was her only child, spoke at a news conference on the day the suit was announced.
“My mama, who also lost her son, she always said, ‘Baby, we’re gonna get through this,” said Shannon. “I always said, ‘Mama, you’re stronger than me.’”
The Times News reported on Thursday that Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons said the department hadn’t been served a lawsuit.
“We haven’t seen any lawsuit, we haven’t been served anything,” Simmons said. “It’s hard to comment on anything that we haven’t even seen.”