WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New Hanover County's District Attorney says a shooting that killed the suspect accused of shooting a New Hanover County Sheriff's deputy last month was a reasonable use of deadly force. District Attorney Ben David said the officers were "absolutely justified in taking Brandon Smith's life."
Smith was shot and killed in northern New Hanover County Oct. 13 three days after investigators say he shot NHSO Det. Michael Spencer in Creekwood.
Investigators say Smith was shot and killed after three officers, two from the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office and one from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), confronted him when he ran into woods off Fulbright Drive after a car pursuit. The pursuit began after a deputy spotted Smith in a car on Princess Place Drive.
District Attorney Ben David said the officers fired 24 shots in no more than three seconds. Nine shots hit Smith, three shots grazed him and 12 shots missed, David said.
The investigation found that officers fired at Smith after finding him laying on his side in the woods and repeatedly telling him to show them his hands. According to the investigation, Smith never responded and appeared to try to pull something out of his pants. After officers again told him to show them his hands, they said Smith appeared to finally get what he was looking for and pointed it at officers. That's when they fired at him.
Investigators say they did not find a gun on Smith, but did find a cell phone near his hand. They also found a dreadlock wig Smith had when he first entered the woods. Smith also had $330 on him. The man who was driving Smith later told investigators that just before the incident, Smith had shown him a gun in his waistband as they drove on Blue Clay Road. Law enforcement has not been able to find that weapon.
"Officers do not need to be shot upon before they have the legal justification to use lethal force," David said.
Investigators say Smith shot Spencer Oct. 10 after the detective and a WPD officer he was with approached him and asked to speak with him in Creekwood. They say after Smith, who was carrying a bag, refused to talk with them, he ducked behind a trash can, pulled out a gun and shot at them hitting Spencer. He then ran off.
The WPD officer identified Smith as the suspect the next day. Investigators say they tried to contact Smith through known associates, but that multiple sources told them Smith had made it clear following the shooting of Det. Spencer that he had no intention of giving himself up or going to back prison.
Investigators say Smith was the suspect in multiple home invasions in the area involving guns, including one in which the victim said he put a gun in her face and pulled the trigger, but the gun malfunctioned. They say Smith's wife also had a protective order against him for assault.
"When you live a certain lifestyle, and when you make certain choices, there will be consequences," Sheriff Ed McMahon said.
As for the officers involved in the shooting, ATF Special Agent Chad Nesbitt is back on duty. The two deputies, Det. E.K. Edwards and Det. J.L. Jewell, will return to duty next week, Sheriff Ed McMahon said. McMahon said Det. Spencer is out of the hospital and doing well.