A motorist had a gun in his hand as he stepped out of a pickup truck during a traffic stop for not wearing a seat belt and was fatally shot by a North Carolina state trooper, a video released Tuesday by the State Highway Patrol showed.
Trooper Rodney Cook, a 16-year veteran of the patrol, shot and killed Mark Anthony Diaz, 21, of Staley, on May 30. The video was released after a judge signed a petition filed at the request of the patrol.
“Sarge, he pulled a gun on me,” Cook said to a supervisor who arrived moments after the shooting. “Freaking seat belt violation.” Shortly after that comment, the sound on the video is muted. Diaz didn’t fire a shot before he was hit, the video showed.
Cook has been placed on routine administrative duty during an internal investigation, the Highway Patrol said last week.
The full video is nearly 37 minutes long, and a shorter version, which includes a narrative describing the incident and pausing the action multiple times to focus on the gun Diaz was holding, was provided by the patrol.
The shorter version begins as Cook makes a U-turn on U.S. Highway 64 in Siler City to catch up with a truck whose occupants weren’t wearing seat belts, according to the narrative. His pursuit ends shortly after the truck pulls into a residential area.
Cook calls in the license plate as he and the truck stop in an intersection. The trooper identifies himself and tells the driver he stopped him because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Cook asks the driver to speak up and tells him the law says he has to wear his seat belt no matter where he was.
The trooper then asks for the driver’s license and registration, and the driver, whose voice is barely audible, apparently says he doesn’t have an ID. Cook says he smells marijuana and asks the driver to step out. According to the patrol, Diaz pulls a pistol, which Cook tries to block before he retreats toward the rear of the truck. The pistol that Diaz was carrying was circled in red on the shorter video.
From the rear of the truck, Cook turns and aims his service weapon at Diaz, who is out of the truck. The trooper fires once and Diaz, still holding the gun in his left hand but not pointed at the trooper, falls backward. The truck rolls away and appears to hit a vehicle parked on the street, and the passenger runs off. The patrol said the passenger, who also wasn’t wearing a seat belt, returned during the investigation.
Diaz rolls slightly to his left and Cook repeats commands for him to drop the gun. His right leg and right arm move slightly, and Cook takes the gun out of Diaz’s hand as he calls in the report of shots fired. As Diaz’s body stops moving, Cook begins to perform CPR on Diaz.
“Stay with me,” Cook says to Diaz while trying to revive him. “Come on, son. Come on. Come on, sir.”
Diaz, still lying in the middle of the street, doesn’t appear to move on his own. Later, Cook seems to groan in frustration that the man isn’t responding and calls to find out when an ambulance is arriving. “Come on, EMS,” he says, still applying the chest compressions. He tells a resident who approaches him to step away because he doesn’t want him to see what has happened.
About 7 minutes after Cook began chest compressions, police officers arrive and take over from Cook, who told them, “I don’t think it’s any good.” He tells the officers what happened and that he fired one shot. He tells the supervisor that no shots were fired at him.
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