MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. -- State investigators are trying to determine why two Mount Holly police officers opened fire on a Charlotte man following a traffic stop Tuesday night, leaving him seriously wounded.
Interim Mount Holly Police Chief David James said the wounded man, 27-year-old Jmar Demontae Davis of Charlotte, displayed a handgun to police during the encounter, which occurred just before midnight.
However, James added: “I have no information that says he fired the gun.”
Davis was struck several times, including once in the neck, and was listed in stable but serious condition Tuesday evening. His mother, Valerie Davis, said he was able to tell her what happened to him at the hospital.
She said the shooting, which left several bullet holes in her son’s car, was unjustified. She says her son never threatened police officers or pointed his gun at them.
“He was complying,” she told the Observer on Wednesday via telephone from Gaston Memorial Hospital, as she waited for her son to be transferred to a hospital in Charlotte. “He never pulled a gun. He never touched it during the shooting.”
Valerie Davis says her son served in the Army seven years ago and was deployed in Iraq for more than two years. On Tuesday night, she said, he was headed to his girlfriend’s house in Mount Holly. They planned to play video games. She said the couple was on the phone when Davis, speeding in his gray 2003 Nissan, noticed an officer had made a U-turn to pursue him.
The girlfriend stayed on the phone for nearly an hour, listening to Jmar Davis’ interactions with police, the fusillade of shots and the officers’ words afterward, Valerie Davis said.
Jmar Davis’ girlfriend could not be reached for comment.
Police say the series of events began about 11:40 p.m., when Mount Holly police Officer Taylor Hager, a seven-year veteran of the department, was clocking speeders with his radar gun on N.C. 273, about a mile south of the Gaston County town’s central business district.
James said Hager clocked the Nissan traveling 80 mph in a 35 mph zone and began pursuing the car. Another officer, Darryl Barnes, who has been with the department five years, joined the pursuit in his patrol car.
James said Davis pulled over about a quarter-mile away, a few hundred feet past the Rankin Avenue intersection, in an area dotted with small businesses.
“There was no apparent effort to elude,” Mount Holly’s police chief said of Davis’ behavior.
But something happened moments later, when the two officers got out of their vehicles and began approaching Davis’ Nissan. James said Davis displayed a handgun, but he said he doesn’t know exactly how Davis did that or what led to the shooting.
“The SBI is conducting that investigation, and I honestly don’t know what happened at that moment,” James said. “I don’t know if he pointed a gun at the officers, or if he made any type of menacing move. We’ll have to await the state on that.”
Hager, reached at his home Wednesday afternoon, declined comment and directed questions to the police chief. Barnes directed questions to his attorney, Michael Neece of Gastonia, who told the Observer that Barnes “is not going to be making any comments.”
Davis’ mother said her son knew that he was speeding that night, and saw the officer pull out to follow him. He began to slow down and stopped for the officers’ flashing lights.
He tried to pull out his license and registration, she said, but fumbled with the documents and they fell to the floor. Davis said her son was trying to show officers his hands.
Jmar Davis had a gun in the car, his mother said, but she wasn’t sure where it was located. She was adamant that he never fired the gun and didn’t point it at officers.
“He was not shooting at them,” she said. “He was not. Their life wasn’t in danger. And it was two of them and one of him.”
After the shooting, James said, Jmar Davis collapsed outside the car. The handgun was found inside. Davis did not have a concealed gun permit from the state or a gun permit in Mecklenburg County.
James said Davis will be charged with two counts of assault with a firearm on an officer.
In 2011, Davis was charged with hit and run causing property damage, according to a search of court records conducted by the Observer. At the time of Tuesday’s shooting, he had a trial pending on concealed gun and drug charges.
He was once accused of going 87 mph in a 65 mph zone but that charge was waived by a court clerk. In 2010, he was charged with discharging a firearm in the city, though that charge was also dismissed.
On Tuesday, after the shooting, the two officers involved began providing medical assistance until paramedics arrived, James said.
There is no record that either of the Mount Holly officers ever was involved in a shooting previously. The shooting marked the first time a Mount Holly police officer had fired his weapon in the line of duty in eight years, James said.
The incident prompted authorities to close a section of N.C. 273, known as Highland Street in that area, while they investigated. Police kept bystanders at a distance, but a number of bullet holes were clearly visible in the Nissan. Two of the windows – the front driver side window and the rear windshield – were shattered. The left rear window and front right window also had bullet holes.
There were no apparent witnesses to the incident.
Barnes and Hager, who is assigned to Mount Holly’s K-9 unit, have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine in cases of officer-involved shootings.