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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.”


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