Davidson County, NC — Last November, Fred Cox, 18, and his family were attending a funeral for Jonas Thompson Jr. at the Living Water Baptist Church. During the ceremony, shots rang out as a drive-by shooting unfolded and Cox went into hero mode, according to a lawsuit filed this week. Unfortunately, according to the complaint, a police officer on the scene would kill Cox for his act of heroism.
"Fred is dead for being a hero while Black," Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Cox's family, said at a " target="_blank" rel="noopener">press conference on Wednesday.
According to police, on November 8, 2020, Cox was a guest at the funeral for Thompson who was murdered two weeks prior. At the request of Thompson's family, Davidson County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Shane Hill was also in attendance, investigating Thompson's murder. He was there to make contact with potential witnesses.
As a group of people walked to their cars after the funeral, shots rang out from a drive-by shooting outside the church. As the shooting unfolded, Cox reportedly saw a mother and her 12-year-old child attempting to seek cover so he ran in their direction and held the door open for them to run inside faster.
According to the lawsuit, as Cox held open the door, deputy Hill opened fire on Cox from behind, putting several bullets into his back — killing the 18-year-old would-be hero. Despite the 70 rounds that were fired that day, Cox was the only person to die.
After he killed Cox, Hill claimed to have seen a firearm on Cox's possession which is why he opened fire. However, his family and their attorneys dispute this claim and say that their son was unarmed when Hill opened fire.
Also, according to the mother and son he helped into the church, there is no way Cox could've been holding a gun as he had one hand on the door and another hand ushering them inside the building as the chaos ensued.
"Fred held the door to make sure others got out of harm’s way and he took the bullets," said civil rights attorney Ben Crump in January. "He's a hero, you can't kill a hero," Crump said.
According to the lawsuit, Hill was so reckless in his shooting, that even the 12-year-old boy was grazed by a bullet.
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The federal lawsuit names the Davidson County Sheriff's Office and Deputy Hill. The family is seeking unspecified damages on six counts, including the use of excessive force, wrongful death, battery, and negligence, and the violation of Cox's Fourth and 14th Amendments.
"Fred Cox saved the mother and son’s lives before he fell, making sure they were safe inside the church before he tried to enter," the complaint states.
Despite authorities finding no evidence that Cox was in a gang or that he discharged a weapon, in June a grand jury declined to indict him and Hill will face no charges. He's since been reinstated to his position on the department.
"I can't say enough times that Fred should not be dead," Cox's mother, Tenicka Shannon, said Wednesday.
"Our family is still in deep grief," she continued. "Our sadness is compounded with sheer confusion about how this tragedy possibly could have happened."
"For so long, we have seen marginalized people stopped and injured by police for driving while Black, riding a bicycle while Black, or walking down the street while Black," Crump said in a statement. "But this young man was shot in the back by an officer while trying to save lives in a very dangerous situation."
Indeed, it is incredibly dangerous. If police officers can get away with shooting unarmed individuals who are helping to save others, what does that say about the justice system in the Land of the Free?
Cox's two children, a 9-month old and a 1-year-old will now grow up without their father.
Sadly, police officer killing heroes is not too uncommon. As TFTP reported earlier this year, Johnny Hurley saved the lives of countless individuals, including police officers, only to be gunned down by cops who showed up after he stopped a mass shooting.