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Fayetteville police release video of officer-involved shooting

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Video courtesy Fayetteville Police Department (CAUTION - GRAPHIC)

The Fayetteville Police Department released dash camera video Friday that partially shows what happened when a man was shot by a police officer three years ago.

"This is our effort to continue to try to build transparency with our community," said Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock.

On May 1, 2013, Officer Phillip Burlingame stopped a car for a window tint violation around 8 a.m. on Sourwood Drive, near Veanna Drive, behind Westarea Elementary School.

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Dash camera video courtesy of the Fayetteville Police Department (CAUTION - GRAPHIC)

Burlingame called for backup because he said the occupants of the vehicle were acting suspiciously, and Officer Denton Little came to help him.

Burlingame then asked the driver - 24-year-old Antoine Morrell Willis - to step out of the car so he could be searched.

Officer Little was standing beside the passenger door of the car. Police say Willis began struggling with Burlingame. In the video released Friday you can hear the struggle and see that Little is distracted by it.

The shooting scene in 2013.

At that point, the passenger in the car - 20-year-old Lawrence Edward Graham III - got out of the car through the open driver-side door and ran. Officer Little gave chase.

Investigators say Graham had a gun and you can see it in his hand in the video. Both men run in front of the stopped car and out of view. You can see Little point his weapon and hear three shots fired, but Graham is not completely visible.

After the shooting, Officer Little said he felt threatened and that Graham was pointing or beginning to point the gun at him.

Working through the video in slow motion Friday, Chief Medlock said of Graham: "You'll see him look over and see him start to turn."

Affidavit of Officer Denton Little (.pdf)

Affidavit of Officer Phillip Burlingame (.pdf)

Medlock said the incident shows how quickly things can turn bad in what appeared to be a normal traffic stop until the struggle started.

"This is another example of why for us body cameras are so important because while the dash cameras in this case gave 75 percent of the story, the vehicle that was parked in front of the police car and the dash camera blurred a lot of what occurred," said Medlock. "We can't unfortunately stage everything so that it's perfect for the cameras."

Graham was paralyzed by the shooting and died the following July from medical complications.

Officer Little was cleared of any wrongdoing by Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West.

Graham's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit after his death and the case remains in litigation.

Neither Officer Little or Officer Burlingame are still with the Fayetteville Police Department. Medlock said Friday that was their choice. Burlingame is still working in law enforcement elsewhere. Little is no longer a police officer.

Medlock said federal judge Louise Flanagan okayed the release of the video in the lawsuit with Graham's family.

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