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Greensboro police officer faces manslaughter charge in fatal shooting

police lights
Peter Griffin
/ /public domain

A former North Carolina police officer was indicted on a manslaughter charge in a fatal shooting in November, authorities said.

Guilford County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that a grand jury returned an indictment charging officer Matthew Hamilton with manslaughter, news outlets reported. Greensboro police announced in a news release Monday that Hamilton had been fired from the department because of the indictment.

The department said officers responded to a call Nov. 20 from a resident who requested help with someone trying to enter their home. The person was found behind the home in a shed, police said.

When officers confronted the man, later identified as Joseph Thomas Lee Lopez, 29, of Greensboro, one officer fired their weapon and struck Lopez, police said. Officers and emergency personnel attempted life-saving measures before Lopez was pronounced dead, police said.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation began looking into the shooting and Hamilton was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome. In March, the agency submitted its findings to the District Attorney’s Office.

Hamilton's attorney, Amiel Rossabi, described him as a 15-year veteran with an “exemplary” record and said he was one of 10 responding officers that night.

“The officer is facing a serious felony charge for doing his job in accordance with training and experience that he has received from the Greensboro Police Department,” Rossabi said after the indictment. “That is an absolute travesty.”

Attorneys representing Lopez’s father, who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the city and the officer, said they are pleased that Hamilton was charged. The lawsuit alleges the city failed to properly train, supervise and discipline officers and an “unconstitutional pattern and practice of using excessive and deadly force disproportionately against persons of color.”

Flint Taylor said Joe Lopez has been dealing with the loss of his son while fighting for answers.

“He has stepped up to take on the burden of this lawsuit, the burden of getting to the bottom of what happened to his son,” Taylor said.

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