In February, Concord Police said one of its officers fatally shot Brandon Combs after a “physical confrontation” at a car dealership where he attempted to steal a truck.
Now lawyers for Combs’ mother say that based on the police video they watched last week, there was no fight between the 29-year-old and police officer Timothy Larson before the officer opened fire on Feb. 13.
Larson’s body-camera images — which the lawyers say they first saw Thursday by court order, but have not yet been released to the public — show a brief foot chase in the parking lot between the officer and suspect that ended when the unarmed Combs climbed into the driver’s seat of Larson’s police SUV, lawyers say.
When Larson arrived on the passenger side of his vehicle, he shot Combs through the windshield five times, lawyers said in a statement.
Larson then stopped to call the shooting to his department. When the conversation ended, Larson shot the mortally wounded Combs again, civil rights attorney Harry Daniels told The Charlotte Observer Monday.
Larson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Daniels, who is the family of . represented Andre Brown after his death by shooting in 2021 by officers in Elizabeth City, says Combs’ footage is one of the worst police shooting videos he’s ever seen.
He says Combs’ death has not received the attention it deserves because police have omitted relevant facts from her statement and presented the shooting as an “open and closed case”.
The video, which the lawyers at the police station watched, changes all that, Daniels said.
“We didn’t know anything until we saw it. We looked at it in disbelief,” said Daniels, an Atlanta attorney who once applied to be deputy sheriff of Mecklenburg County.
“The most disturbing thing is not the unwarranted use of deadly force, but that (Larson) paused and then used deadly force again. The first five shots were bad enough. The last shot was overkill, man. It was exaggerated. I can’t understand it.”
Now Daniels and the other attorneys representing Combs’ family are calling on Cabarrus County District Attorney Roxann Vaneekhoven to take the rare step in North Carolina to charge Larson with a crime or have a to sue a grand jury.
They also want the old prosecutor to meet Combs’ mother, Virginia Tayara, and for the police to release the recording video.
Vaneekhoven and her office did not answer a call from the Observer on Monday seeking information about the case.
Tayara is expected to speak about her son’s death at a press conference outside Concord City Hall at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Daniels said Tayara did not watch the police video. In fact, she wasn’t aware that there was anything unusual about her son’s death until she was told by the State Bureau of Investigation that Combs had been shot while inside a police vehicle, he said.
According to Daniels, Larson, who police say had been on the job for two years when the shooting happened, is no longer working for the department.
When asked about Larson’s job status and whether he had been fired or resigned, the Concord Police referred questions to the city of Concord. A city spokeswoman said it would be Tuesday before information about Larson’s employment and disciplinary files would be available.
The SBI, which was investigating the shooting, sent its findings to Vaneekhoven for its review earlier this month, agency spokeswoman Anjanette Grube said.
“Do you represent the citizens of Cabarrus County or the police officers of Cabarrus County,” Daniels said of Vaneekhoven.
“We’re about to find out.”
Use of deadly force by police
In North Carolina and every other state, police officers have the right to use deadly force if they have a reasonable suspicion that they, their colleagues, or the public are at immediate risk of death or serious injury.
The law was written around a landmark Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connorwhich originated in Charlotte.
Each year, police shoot and kill about 1,000 people, a number that has remained largely unchanged despite widespread police reforms following the deaths of George Floyd and others. according to the Washington Postwho has tracked shootings involving officers for the past five years.
Both Combs and Larson are white.
Police prosecutions for shootings are rare; beliefs even more so.
In Charlotte, the trial following the arrest of the first officer for an on-duty shooting in more than 30 years ended in a hung jury in 2015 by a majority of the members who voted in favor of acquittal. The charges against the officer were later dropped.
In the case of Combs, the police statement after the shooting said the standoff happened at 5am on Sunday, February 13, at the modern Nissan dealership on Concord Parkway South. There, according to Daniels, Combs was caught red-handed trying to steal a Nissan pickup.
“The officer gave the suspect multiple verbal orders to stop what he was doing. The suspect refused,” Major Robert Ledwell said in the police statement after the shooting. “A physical confrontation assured. Shortly afterwards, the officer fired (his) department-issued pistol and hit the suspect.”
Combs died later that day at Atrium Health Cabarrus.
The chase between Larson and Combs, which Daniels says was captured on the officer’s camera, was not mentioned in the police statement, nor was the fact that Combs died in a police vehicle.
Under the Concord Police Department’s use of force policyagents are prohibited from firing at vehicles unless they or others are the target of “deadly physical assault” other than a vehicle, or “the moving vehicle presents an immediate and continuing threat of significant bodily harm to the agent or other person of who is not a reasonable means of escape.”
According to Daniels, neither circumstance was a factor in Combs’ death. The video shows that the SUV didn’t move; Combs was not armed; and Larson was standing to the side of the vehicle and not directly in its path, the attorney claims.
According to his own comments on the video, Larson acknowledged he was not in immediate danger, Daniels said.
When asked why he shot Combs, the officer replied, “He tried to take my car,” Daniels said.
This is a story in development.