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Friday, March 1, 2024 | Back issues
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The Law in North Carolina

(CN) - Sheriff's deputies in North Carolina shot a black man in the back in his own home, for no good reason, and then lied about it to state investigators, the man claims in Federal Court. After the coverup, he says, the sheriff was convicted of state and federal crimes and forced from office.

After shooting George Cooper in the back, the officers searched his home without warrant and found a small child who asked why they had "killed" his father, Cooper says. He says the officers gave the child a blanket and a teddy bear.

Cooper survived, but with serious and permanent physical and psychological injuries, and is unable to work, he says in his complaint in Wilmington, N.C.

Cooper says he and friends had spent the early evening of May 3, 2007 outside his mobile home laughing and telling stories, then went inside to watch "Desperate Housewives."

He says two deputies responded to a call from a neighbor who believed, falsely, that "two men were fighting at plaintiff's home."

Cooper says the deputies did not announce their presence, but crept around the home peering in its windows.

Startled by the sound of banging outside - caused by a deputy banging on the home with his flashlight - Cooper says he opened the front door and put "an unloaded single-shot shotgun to the side of the door."

Then the shooting began. Defendants "[James] Sheehan and [Brian] Carlisle then shot George multiple times mostly in his back, causing severe wounds," according to the complaint.

Cooper says the deputies later claimed under oath that he had fired at them, but a state investigation found that his gun was empty and had not been fired.

State investigators found that the sheriff had coached the deputies to provide false testimony about the incident, Cooper says.

"Sheriff Hewett has resigned from his office amid terrible scandal and is now a convicted felon. Several of the Deputies provided evidence to the district attorney of racial discrimination, witness tampering and conspiracy. He has pled guilty to a federal felony count of obstruction of justice and state charges of obstruction of justice and embezzlement and served an active prison sentence," according to the complaint."

Cooper sued the Brunswick County Sheriff's Department, Hewett and six deputies.

He seeks punitive damages for excessive force, unwarranted use of deadly force, illegal search and entry, illegal seizure, racial discrimination, assault, battery, negligence and due process violations.

Cooper and his young son are represented by Laura Conner with Tatum & Atkinson in Raleigh, N.C.

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