Downtown Durham police standoff turns fatal

A crime scene investigator marks evidence at the site of the shooting.
A crime scene investigator marks evidence at the site of the shooting.

A police officer fatally shot an apparently suicidal man in Downtown Durham Tuesday afternoon.

Witnesses said the man drove into CCB Plaza and held a gun to his head when the Durham police were called. When officers arrived at 4:19 p.m., the man was outside of his car, wielding the gun near the large bull statue on Corcoran St. Officers negotiated with the man for approximately an hour. He then turned the gun at the police officers, prompting one officer to shoot him in the torso.

Police have not yet released the name of the victim, who died soon after he was transported to the hospital.

The officer involved in the shooting is Cpl. R.C. Swartz. He works with the Durham Police's Special Operations Division, and has been a Durham police officer since 2001. He is on administrative leave with pay, which is standard procedure.

Jackie Wilson, who arrived at the scene after recognizing the man in the news reports, said the victim was a friend he worked with at a local lighting manufacturing company.

“We were supposed to go f---ing fishing tomorrow,” Wilson said with tears in his eyes.

Wilson said he had not noticed any signs that his friend was suicidal. He added that he wished the police officer had not targeted the man’s torso, a vulnerable area.

“They could have shot him in the foot or the leg or something,” he said.

Taufiki Lee, a pastor at A More Excellent Way Temple, said he was in the church, which is several feet away from the plaza, when he heard the gun shot go off. He noted that Corcoran St., Parrish St., East Chapel Hill St., Foster St. and Rigsby Ave., among others, were all taped off following the shooting.

At 7 p.m., all the blocks leading into CCB Plaza were still closed off. Multiple police cars blocked the entry points to the plaza, and crime scene investigators were photographing the evidence near the bull statue.

A black Dodge was parked near the bull statue with its lights on. Wilson said the car belonged to his friend.

David Jackson, a Durham resident, was outside Dame’s Chicken and Waffles when he heard the shot fired. He noted that a “hysterical woman” tried to run to the man’s aid, but was stopped by the police.

“I suspect she was someone who knew him,” he said.

There were snipers on the rooftops of the Marriott Hotel as police negotiated with the man in CCB Plaza, said Durham resident Rob Mariani, who was bartending at Alley Twenty Six on E. Chapel Hill St. at the time of the incident.

“They’ve been saying it’s an attempted suicide by cop,” Mariani said of the victim’s choice to turn the gun on police.

The Parlour—an ice cream store in CCB plaza—tweeted that the man was taken away in an ambulance on oxygen.

The man was pronounced dead a short time after arriving at the hospital, according to the police statement.

The Parlour closed for the rest of the day due to the incident.

“Friends, events of this afternoon were a bit traumatizing so we’re closed tonight,” the Parlour tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

Durham police officers at the scene of the crime declined to comment on the incident or deferred comment to the watch commander.

Watch Commander Daniel Edwards also declined to comment.

According to a statement from Durham police, the shooting is being investigated by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. The incident is also being investigated by the Durham Police Department’s Professional Standards Division and Criminal Investigations Division, which is the standard procedure in any shooting involving an officer.

Julian Spector contributed reporting.

This article was updated at 12:29 p.m. Wednesday to reflect new information.


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