Chatham County prosecutor says there are no charges for soldier who shot gunman

The State Highway Patrol Trooper who fatally shot Mark Anthony Diaz on Memorial Day during a traffic stop acted lawfully and will not face any criminal charges, the Chatham District and County Attorney has said. ‘Orange, Jim Woodall.

Diaz, 21, was once fatally shot by Private Rodney N. Cook on May 30 after Diaz pulled a gun at a traffic stop and exited his vehicle.

In a memo released this week about his decision, Woodall said Cook was justified in using deadly force under state law. He based his decision on a review of evidence produced by the State Highway Patrol and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The NCSBI has been asked to investigate the shooting, which is common when a law enforcement officer kills someone.

“It is always tragic for everyone involved when law enforcement officers have to use deadly force to shield themselves from the public,” Woodall wrote. “The use of lethal force on this occasion was legal and reasonable. Nevertheless, the death of Mark Anthony Diaz is a tragic event. He had a family and many friends who will be forever affected by his loss.

MarkDiazPhoto.jpg
Courtesy of the Diaz family

Details of the shooting involving an officer

The incident unfolded in the town of Siler City around 4:30 p.m. when Cook pulled over a van being driven by Diaz for a seat belt violation.

After Cook stopped the truck near the sidewalk of a residential street, Diaz said he had no license or registration to supply the soldier. Cook asked Diaz that he could smell marijuana and asked if there was any in the vehicle.

Moments later, dash cam footage previously released by SHP shows a brief struggle between Cook and Diaz while he was still in the driver’s seat. Highway Patrol said that was when Diaz pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and Cook attempted to disarm him.

As Cook retreated to his car with his hand on his gun holster, Diaz’s hand holding a gun emerges from the driver’s side window. Cook fired a single shot, which hit Diaz in the chest.

Cook called out the incident on his radio, saying “shots fired”, then told Diaz to drop his gun, which was still in his hand when he fell to the ground after being shot.

The soldier approached him and took the weapon from his hands. He grabbed a first aid kit from his patrol car, called emergency medical services and performed CPR on Diaz.

Diaz was taken to Chatham County Hospital and was pronounced dead a short time later.

He lived in the town of Staley in Randolph County. Moises Diaz, Mark’s older brother, told The N&O in June he thought his younger brother had made a mistake when he pulled out a gun.

“They were going to search his car,” Diaz, 25, said. “I think he was just scared.

Diaz said in June that the Highway Patrol showed his family the dash cam video before it was made public.

“I had some clarity on (the video)”, says Moises Diaz. “No matter the situation, it’s clarity so I can get on with my life.”

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Aaron Sánchez-Guerra is a breaking news reporter for The News & Observer and previously covered business and real estate for the paper. His experience includes reporting for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a freelance journalist in Raleigh and Charlotte covering Latin American communities. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, a native Spanish speaker, and was born in Mexico. You can follow his work on Twitter at @aaronsguerra.