A state trooper said Friday that he expects to return to work in a few weeks, after a grand jury declined to indict him for killing the former mayor of Bolton, who was a drunken-driving suspect.
Meanwhile, members of the dead man's family say they are counting on the results of an FBI probe to show that the trooper violated Sidney Bowen's civil rights.Trooper Alfred Morris, 30, a seven-year veteran with the Highway Patrol, shot and killed Bowen Feb. 27 when a scuffle broke out during a drunken-driving arrest. Bowen, a former mayor of the Columbus County town, was pulled over as he entered the driveway of his home.
An 18-member grand jury late Thursday declined to indict the trooper after hearing testimony from 15 witnesses. The decision required the concurrence of at least 12 members, officials said.
Columbus District Attorney Mike Easley called the probe the most extensive during his 14 years as a prosecutor. Easley is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.
``I believe the ovett of High Point, added: ``I've come to the conclusion that the trooper intended to kill him before he stopped him.'
Morris, the son of a retired Raleigh police officer, is staying at his parents' house in the middle class Raleigh suburb of Fairfax Hills. A divorced father of a 3-year-old girl, he's been on sick leave from the patrol since the incident and is recovering from appendicitis.``In a couple of weeks, I'll be going back to work,' he said happily before declining to answer questions. Patrol officials have not decided whether Morris will return to Bolton or be transferred.
Morris told officials that he hit Bowen on the head and arm with a flashlight after Bowen had run away from him and was resisting arrest, said Graham Wilson, director of public affairs for the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. Bowen took the flashlight and hit Morris on the head, Wilson said.
``I wanted to live,' Morris said in a statement released during a press conference Friday in Raleigh. Also released was a preliminary summary of the medical examiner's report of Bowen's death and two color photos, one of Morris' bloody shirt and another of his head wound, which required six stitches.
Jim Ferguson, an attorney for the Bowen family, said he is investigating allegations that Morris has a reputation for being rough with people he has arrested.
Wilson, of the state department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said no previous complaints have been filed against Morris. The trooper, who has one of the best records for arresting drunken drivers, was hospitalized for a week in October 1984 when he was beaten with a 2-by-4 board.
Morris did not use his gun during that attack, and his friends believe those injuries may have been the reason he used his gun last month.
Morris used his gun one other time, in 1987 when he was chasing an armed robbery suspect, Wilson said. The shots missed.
Donald W. Dowless of Columbus County says he now feels guilty for not filing a complaint for the way Morris treated his son four years ago. Donald R. Dowless Jr. was stopped for drunken driving, and Morris was rough with the 26-year-old, who ran and hid in a barn, the father said. Two days later, the junior Dowless turned himself in and his father went with him.
``As soon as he saw my son, he grabbed him and pushed him upside the wall and did a full search. Roughhouse was what it was. I felt it was totally unnecessary.
``In the community, he has a reputation as being a bully,' the older Dowless said. ``In minor infractions, he bullies people and causes them to rebel so it gives him the opportunity to bully them some more.'
Elaine Russ, a Lake Waccamaw resident who has known Morris for several years, disputes that.
``He's a good patrolman. He loves his job,' Russ said. ``I've never seen him angry or mad.'
Her husband, Edwin Russ, agreed.
``He was just doing his job,' he said. ``If Bowen hadn't have run that night, he'd still be alive.'
Staff Writer Seth Effron contributed to this report.