Nijza Lamar Hagans, 22

Fayetteville, North Carolina
January 24, 2013

Agencies: Fayetteville Police Department North Carolina | State Bureau of Investigations SBI North Carolina

Cause of death: Shooting

Follow This Case

Last updated: almost 4 years ago

People tracking this case: 1 -- Click here to Track this.


In the predawn hours of January 24, 2013, a police officer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, shot and killed a 22-year-old resident named Nijza Lamar Hagans, who had been pulled over for running a red light and making “several furtive driving maneuvers such as darting onto a neighborhood street and into a driveway,” according to a memo by Cumberland County’s district attorney, Billy West. The police officer, Aaron Hunt, then 24, claimed that, peering into the SUV Hagans was driving, he saw Hagans reach aggressively for a gun in his pants pocket as he opened his car door.

“Officer Hunt fired his weapon after observing Mr. Hagans reaching for the gun and exiting the vehicle and turning toward Officer Hunt,” wrote West in his memo (embedded below), which concluded that Hunt’s response was “lawful and measured.”

Yet the report absolving Hunt, who is Native American and is still a police officer in Fayetteville, did not mention the existence of video from the dashboard camera in Hunt’s cruiser, which shows a more troubling unfolding of events.

The footage — which the city has withheld from public release but was provided to The Intercept by a source who requested anonymity — shows Officer Hunt shooting at Hagans a split-second after Hagans begins thrusting open his car door and while Hagans is still largely in his vehicle. Hunt shoots at Hagans, who is black, twice more as he exits the vehicle. The video then shows Hagans running away from Officer Hunt, who, instead of pursuing him, shoots at Hagans twice as he flees. Just after these final shots, Hagans stumbles to the ground where he died.

While many elements of the video corroborate the state’s outline of events, the circumstances surrounding the most disturbing moment in the footage — the last two shots — were wholly elided in District Attorney West’s report that cleared Hunt.

The district attorney’s memo appears to rely heavily on Hunt’s account of events and also omits a key finding from the state medical examiner’s report: two of the four bullets that hit Hagans entered through his back and rear shoulder. These bullets pierced Hagans’ lungs; one of them went on to rupture Hagans’ aorta, the body’s main artery, just above his heart, according to the autopsy findings, which The Intercept obtained through a records request. Instead, West quoted only the phrase “multiple gunshot wounds to the chest” from the medical examiner’s report to explain the cause of death.

District Attorney West declined to comment on the case. In response to a list of questions, the Fayetteville Police Department provided The Intercept with West’s report, but, citing pending litigation and confidentiality of personnel records, provided little additional comment.

Community and Family Efforts