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Chief, DA say Denk autopsy wrong


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington's police chief and the district attorney say they side with the family of a woman who died in a confrontation with police in disputing an autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

Grace Louise Denk died Jan. 28 after police say she raised a gun at an officer, who then opened fire killing her. Family members say the Marine was battling depression. The investigation found Denk had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend that evening and threatened to kill herself.

In March, District Attorney Ben David ruled that the shooting was a justifiable use of force, but the StarNews reported yesterday that Denk's autopsy ruled the 21-year-old died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Denk's family told the newspaper they disagree with that finding, and David and Police Chief Ralph Evangelous agree.

In a joint statement released today, David and Evangelous said, "The OCME Report contains several inaccuracies that are inconsistent with the findings of the investigations of both the Wilmington Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation."

David did not have the autopsy report when he cleared the shooting in March, but he and Evangelous said in their statement that they "stand by the results and findings of that investigation."

David and Evangelous said they have reached out to Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch "to express our concerns over the multiple inaccuracies in this (autopsy) report."

"Forensic evidence needs to be rigorously tested and this incident underscores the need for scrutiny," David said in the statement. "Nothing is more important in the pursuit of the truth than the integrity of physical evidence."

In response to media inquiries, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement.

"North Carolina medical examiners and forensic pathologists work closely with local officials to ensure that a thorough death investigation is conducted," DHHS spokesman Kevin Howell said. "We encourage open dialogue to obtain all relevant information in every case. Dr. Deborah Radisch, the state's Chief Medical Examiner, has reached out to the District Attorney and local law enforcement to determine whether any additional information is available and has not been provided."

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Was she already dead when

Was she already dead when the police shot her?
If she shot herself in the head, she was not raising the gun in a threatening manner.

She could have raised the

She could have raised the gun and then shot her self in the head. I think the boyfriends actions did a lot to hype up the situation. Did she have relation problems with him? Theres a million questions in this story.

Sounds like the coroner

Sounds like the coroner tried for a cover up that backfired for some reason. Something very wrong here. A trained coroner certainly can tell what gun fired the fatal shot through ballistic checks. Inquiring minds want to know.

Poor Training

I believe this situation was mishandled. Why did the police approach her as if she was a wanted killer rather than a person who was suicidal?

Why are you going to force the situation. She has a gun. You have a gun.

Come on any real journalists out there?


What exactly did you want

What exactly did you want the police to do??? Get real! You guys are morons. If the police did nothing and she kills herself, you would blame them for not doing their job. They try to talk to her and she pulls a gun on them and they are at fault. Some of you have absolutely no clue what so ever. This was a tragic event, but not a chance in hell you can blame the police for this one. You can tell who the cop basher are!

Have you ever had a weapon

Have you ever had a weapon pointed at you? Try it and see what reaction you have. You will either be a victim or live to see another day. Sadly this stuff happens.

You answered your own question

Question: "Why did the police approach her as if she was a wanted killer rather than a person who was suicidal?"

Answer: "She has a gun."

My guess is the cops just

My guess is the cops just wanted to end the situation and basically forced her hand, knowing what the outcome would be. Not much professionalism left in LEOs anymore.

Suicide or Justified?

I tend to agree with your reasoning. I also believe that police officers forced her hand. Police also appear to have immediately believe the boyfriend's exclamation that she was suicidal. She could have been sitting in the car with a weapon to protect herself from an abusive domestic situation. I think the DA is so use to calling a death by cop "Justifiable" that he just jumps to that conclusion and uses the standard answer.