Cox family files civil suit over shooting death

·4 min read

Aug. 12—TRIAD — Attorneys representing the family of Fred Cox Jr., the Black teenager who was fatally shot at a funeral last November by a Davidson County deputy, have filed a civil lawsuit over Cox's death.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, cites the officer — Deputy Michael Shane Hill — and the Davidson County Sheriff's Department as defendants, contending Hill gunned down the teenager without cause.

"We will not let civil justice die with Fred Cox," co-counsel Antonio Romanucci said at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro.

"District Attorney Avery Crump, where are you? We want charges. This was an unjustified killing of a young Black man being a hero. Where are the charges?"

The lawsuit describes how Hill shot and killed Cox at Living Water Baptist Church in High Point on Nov. 8, 2020, at a memorial service for a young man who had been slain two weeks earlier in Davidson County. Hill was investigating that homicide and attended the funeral at the request of the victim's family.

According to witnesses, as mourners were leaving the church, gunfire from two passing vehicles rained down near the church, causing mourners to scatter and seek shelter. Witnesses say Cox was helping a youth and his mother get into the church safely when he was shot four times — at least twice from behind — by Hill. Cox died at the scene.

"This force was not justified in any way, shape or form," Romanucci said, explaining that Cox never fired a weapon and didn't even have one with him. "The only justification Shane Hill had for shooting Fred Cox was that he was Black and running away, pushing people into the doorway of the church, being a hero. That's what Fred was guilty of — being a hero and saving lives."

Lead attorney Ben Crump — a nationally renowned civil rights attorney who has represented the families in such high-profile deaths as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — said Cox was killed for the same reason they were: Because he was Black.

"Fred unfortunately, like many young Black people around America, has fallen victim to the epidemic that has police officers shoot first and ask questions later when they see Black people," Crump said.

The complaint filed Wednesday cites six counts, including the use of excessive force by the deputy; a claim of patterns and practices in the sheriff's office that violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of civilians; wrongful death battery and negligence; and survival battery and negligence, meaning the deputy caused malicious and needless bodily harm and reasonable care was not taken to prevent those injuries.

In addition to targeting Hill, the lawsuit alleges harsh charges against the sheriff's office and Sheriff Richie Simmons, claiming that fatal shootings by his deputies have increased dramatically since he was elected in 2018.

"This is something we have seen far too often in Davidson County," said High Point attorney Ashley Mills, who is also representing the Cox family. "Under Sheriff Simmons, we have seen clearly the pattern, practice and custom of using excessive and deadly force in situations where less-than-lethal force would be appropriate. If Deputy Hill had been a reasonable officer, Fred would still be alive."

Contacted Wednesday afternoon, Simmons said he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because he hadn't seen it yet.

The complaint seeks compensatory, punitive and special damages and costs as defined under federal law in an amount to be determined by a jury.

Cox's family and legal team had hoped criminal charges would be filed against Hill, but when a grand jury heard the case on June 1, the jurors opted not to indict the officer, determining there was "insufficient evidence to support criminal charges," according to a statement from the office of Guilford County District Attorney Avery Crump.

Cox's mother, Tenicka Shannon — who called the grand jury's decision "a punch in my gut," but said she and her family would not give up — reiterated that sentiment at Wednesday's news conference.

"We will keep fighting for justice in (Fred's) name as long as it takes," she said through tears. "We miss him so badly, but our sadness is compounded with sheer confusion about how this tragedy possibly could have even happened." — 336-888-3579

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting