GREENSBORO — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and one of its detectives is the latest action taken in the wake of a shocking drive-by shooting at a High Point funeral late last year.
Fredrick Cox Jr., 18, was shot and killed by a plainclothes detective. That’s not in dispute. What’s unclear is why the detective targeted Cox, who was one of the mourners scurrying for safety.
“I can’t say enough times that Fred should not be dead,” Tenicka Shannon, Cox’s mother, said at a press conference outside of the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Greensboro on Wednesday afternoon.
The civil lawsuit, which lists Shannon as the plaintiff, was filed against Det. Michael Shane Hill, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America.
The complaint contains six counts, including excessive force, battery and negligence by Hill. It also alleges the sheriff’s office is liable for Cox’s death, noting an increased use of force by deputies since Sheriff Richie Simmons took office in December 2018.
The lawsuit, which seeks monetary compensation and a jury trial, comes after a grand jury chose not to indict Hill in June.
Cox was shot four times, including twice in the back, when violence erupted at a Living Water Baptist Church funeral on Nov. 8, 2020. Mourners leaving the service at 1300 Brentwood St. went into a panic when shots were fired from two vehicles toward the crowd. According to police, the shooters were gang members, and members of an opposing gang were among those attending the funeral.
The funeral was for 18-year-old Jonas Thompson, an alleged gang member. At the request of Thompson’s family, Hill attended the funeral in civilian attire as a part of his investigation into Thompson’s death.
Hill said he fired his weapon at Cox because he saw the teenager with a handgun, according to the State Bureau of Investigation.
But family members and witnesses argued that Cox did not have a weapon and disputed claims he was involved in gang activity.
Later, SBI findings would reveal there was no evidence to support Cox had fired a weapon.
Despite that, a grand jury determined there was not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against Hill.
Shannon won’t accept that. Her legal team, which includes nationally renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump, won’t accept it, either.
“Make no mistake: There should have been no force used,” Crump said at Wednesday’s press conference. “This force was not justified in any way, shape or form.”
“Fred was a hero,” Crump added.
That’s how one mother and her 13-year-old son attending Wednesday’s press conference view Cox. According to Crump, they claim Cox ushered them inside just moments before he was shot by Hill.
And as pointed out by Lyndsey McPherson, a High Point attorney and part of Crump’s co-counsel, Cox and Hill were on the opposite side of the church from where the shooting was taking place. Using an image depicting an aerial view of the church, McPherson pointed toward the door at which Cox was shot. The road where the shooting took place is on the opposite side of the building from that door.
So, what led Hill to target Cox?
Shannon has been asking herself that question for nine “sleepless” months.
“Our sadness is compounded with sheer confusion of how this tragedy possibly could have even happened,” Shannon said, her voice breaking.
“That was my only child. My only child. I’ve never been without hearing my baby’s voice — without seeing his face — for this long. And to know that I never have that opportunity again — it’s gut-wrenching. It hurts so bad.”
Contact Jamie Biggs at 336-373-4476 and follow @JamieBiggsNR on Twitter.