Durham County

Durham man was speeding 84 mph on the night a state trooper shot him

Willard Scott
Willard Scott courtesy of the family

A Durham man was speeding 84 mph on the night in Februrary that a state trooper fatally shot him, according to a newly released audio recording.

The recording of N.C. Highway Patrol troopers communicating with radio dispatch in Raleigh was obtained by the Durham branch of the NAACP through a public records request.

On the recording from the night Willard Scott Jr., 31, was shot and killed, Trooper Jerimy Mathis relays over his radio that he’s chasing a car traveling at 84 mph.

Scott was scheduled to appear in Durham County District Court for a Dec. 12 incident in which he punched a woman in the face making her bleed, according to an arrest warrant. Scott had also grabbed a Durham police corporal’s shirt and pushed him, the warrant said.

Scott was driving a 1996 Nissan on Duke Street near Duke Regional Hospital around 1 a.m. Feb. 12 when Mathis signaled Scott to pull to the curb due to a lane violation and erratic driving, according to press releases from the Highway Patrol and the State Bureau of Investigation. Scott got out of his car and ran away, officials said.

Mathis shot Scott. A gun was found at the scene the Highway Patrol said did not belong to the agency.

Scott’s mother, Thomasine Hinson, released a statement with the audio recording’s release.

“The officer ran [Scott’s] tag, [the officer] was locked and loaded,” Hinson said. “He knew who was driving that car.”

An autopsy report showed Mathis shot Scott twice, from behind. The bullet that killed Scott entered the left side of his lower back, and traveled “back to front, left to right and upward,” the report said.

“This pain is crippling. My heart aches for my son. My tears are warm as they roll down my face,” Hinson said. “I am a strong woman, but this has beat me to a pulp. My head feels tight like it is about to explode.”

The recording

The audio recording begins at 1:07 a.m. Feb. 12. A trooper identifying himself with the call sign “731” says he’s in-pursuit of a “10-43,” southbound on U.S. 501.

A 10-43 is a Highway Patrol radio code for “chase.”

On “Duke street approaching, Stadium Drive,” the trooper says.

The time and date the audio file was recorded and the places mentioned suggest Mathis is trooper 731, but the Highway Patrol did not respond to a request to confirm that

The trooper says he’s pursuing a car with the license plate number DLA 8857 which he clocked speeding at 84 mph.

Next, the dispatcher asks the trooper to describe the fleeing vehicle.

“Hang on Raleigh,” the trooper says. “He’s brake-checking”

Another law enforcement officer confirms backup is on the way, “This is 750, Raleigh, I’m at 85, near East Club – headed that way.”

Trooper 731 reports “[He’s] looking for a place to jump and run, Raleigh.”

The Raleigh dispatcher repeats a request for Trooper 731 to describe the vehicle.

“Nissan, Altima, gray. [He] passed by one time,” the trooper says. “Appears to be a black male.”

“Ten-four,” the dispatcher says. “Advise location?”

The trooper says, “Duke at Regional.”

At 1 minute and 25 seconds into the recording, the dispatcher asks, “731, do you have a reason for chase?”

The radio is silent for 18 seconds.

At 1 minute and 43 seconds into the recording, the trooper’s voice reappears, strenuously saying, “Shots fired! Shot fired!”

The announcement is immediately followed by the trooper giving his location: “Duke [Street], Crutchfield [Street]. Send EMS!”

The intersection of Duke and Crutchfield streets is an entrance into Duke Regional Hospital.

EMS arrive in under a minute.

The recording continues with troopers responding to the scene and the dispatcher letting them know that commanding officers were alerted to the officer-involved shooting.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks