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Officer involved in Marcus Smith death fired for later incident of excessive force

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Officer involved in Marcus Smith death fired  for later incident of excessive force
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Greensboro Police Officer Douglas A. Strader was fired from the Greensboro Police Department on Sept. 22, for firing his weapon at a vehicle fleeing a crime scene at the intersection of S. Elm and E. Washington Streets on Oct. 27, 2019— 379 days after he took part in the 2018 fatal hogtying of Marcus Deon Smith.

“The greatest responsibility that a police officer has is the obligation to use deadly force appropriately,” wrote City Manager David Parrish in his Oct. 7 dismissal of Strader’s appeal. "I believe that, given the circumstances of the night in question, your use of deadly force against the driver and occupants of a fleeing vehicle was unnecessary and in violation of GPD Directive 1.5.13(A)."

On page 29 of the Greensboro Police Department Directives Manual, Section 1.5.13, Use of Force states:

Officers will use no more force than necessary in the performance of their duties and will then do so only in accordance with GPD procedures and the law.

The News & Record’s Oct. 27 2019, article about the incident in which Strader discharged his weapon stated:

"Police officers responded to South Elm and East Washington streets in reference to a disturbance involving shots fired. Officers immediately located and took into custody a suspect who discarded a firearm.” At this time, “a vehicle believed to be associated with the disturbance tried to flee the scene and four officers fired their weapons at the vehicle at Washington and Davie Streets."

The article cites the GPD’s preliminary report as stating that no one was hit by police gunfire.

“A single mistake, error or lapse in judgment while using deadly force can have tragic and long-lasting consequences for our community,” Parrish wrote to Strader. “As a result, we have no tolerance for the misuse of deadly force. For these reasons, I am upholding your dismissal from employment with the Greensboro Police Department.”

Strader is one of eight GPD officers named in the ongoing Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit over Marcus Smith’s death. He is the third to leave the GPD since that lawsuit was filed, but the first to be fired. Former officer Lee Andrews resigned Dec. 19, 2019, and former Officer Michael Montalvo retired May 2.

Along with Strader, Andrews and Montalvo, the other five GPD officers named in the lawsuit resulting from that homicide are Jordan Bailey, Christopher Bradshaw, Robert Duncan, Alfred Lewis, and Justin Payne.

The term “homicide” is used in the previous sentence because that’s what the State Medical ruled Smith’s death. In this context, “homicide” contains no presumption of criminality or negligence, but does indicate that Marcus Smith’s death was due to the actions of the officers, rather than illness, accident or Smith’s own actions.

On Sept. 8, 2018, the eight officers applied a hogtie restraint device to Smith after forcing him face-down onto the pavement of Church Street, less than two blocks from where Strader would later fire his weapon at a fleeing car a year later. After screaming “I ain’t resisting!” Smith stopped breathing and became unresponsive.

Rather than performing CPR on the spot, EMTs Ashley Abbott and Dylan Alling took several minutes to load Smith into their ambulance, and only then unsuccessfully performed resuscitative measures, which is why they are also named as defendants in the suit. Smith was taken to Cone Hospital and pronounced dead. Shortly before leaving office, former Guilford County District Attorney Douglas Henderson ruled that the officers were not criminally negligent in Smith’s death.

Before his retirement in January, former GPD Chief Wayne Scott made several false statements about what occurred on the night of Smith’s death, including claims that Smith— who was in the midst of a mental health crisis— was “combative” (he was erratic and agitated, but not aggressive) and that he “collapsed.”

At the Nov. 2 2020 meeting of the Greensboro City Council, At-Large Representative Michelle Kennedy stated that the former chief had “lied” to the public about these details, and to the council about whether or not hogtying had been banned by the GPD.

YES! Weekly’s initial report on the firing of Strader did not include any mention of deadly force. The City’s response to YES! Weekly’s public information request did not include Parrish’s letter, or any other indication of why Strader was terminated.

On Nov. 11, one day after YES! Weekly’s previous article on Strader’s firing was posted online; Amanda Skiscim filed public information request #13699.

In it, Skiscim stated:

Under the North Carolina Public Records Law, N.C.G.S. 132-1 and N.C.G.S. 160A-168, I am requesting the following public records: Date, type of dismissal, and a ‘copy of the written notice of the final decision of the municipality setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal.’ for Corporal Douglas A. Strader.

In response, City of Greensboro Public Records Request Administrator Kurt Brenneman sent Skiscim the email from City Manager Parrish denying Strader’s appeal.

When queried as to why YES! Weekly was not also sent this letter, Brenneman responded:

I am so sorry that we did not provide the termination letter in response to your public records request #13672. You requested records concerning Corporal Strader’s positions until he left the Greensboro Police Department in September, his final salary, and information as to whether he retired, resigned, or was terminated, as well as his eligibility for a pension, and if so, what amount. I interpreted this as a request for our standard personnel report that lists all public information pursuant to NCGS 160A-168(b). I did not check for the presence of a dismissal letter, which is public record pursuant to NCGS 160A-168(b)(11).

Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.

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