Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ordered the Durham County Sheriff’s Office to give J’Mauri Bumpass’s family all camera recordings from the patrol car that pulled him over just before the 18-year-old’s alleged suicide late last year.

But that footage will not include dashboard camera recordings. Those wires had been damaged and then taped together, which Bumpass family attorney Allyn Sharp deemed suspicious. 

During a hearing on Wednesday, Sharp speculated that the dashboard camera wires inside Deputy Anthony Sharp’s (no relation) patrol car might have been intentionally cut. Deputy Sharp pulled over Bumpass’s Chevy Impala on December 15 and reported finding him with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. 

Ally Sharp said the taped wires were “unusual.” “It’s very problematic,” she added. “I have serious doubts about the damaged, taped wires.”

Hours after Bumpass died, according to records obtained by the family, DCSO employee Nequella Battle emailed a colleague after inspecting Deputy Sharp’s patrol car, saying the camera system “had no network connection.”

“The access had no power,” Battle wrote. “I unscrewed the plastic cover over the network cable and saw that the cable appeared to have been damaged and someone tried to repair it with electrical tape.”

Keischa Lovelace, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Office, said the dashboard camera had been undergoing repairs before the stop. The Sheriff’s Office provided an invoice showing the dashcam twice underwent repairs at the Piedmont Communications Company last year.  

The invoice does not specify that Piedmont technicians taped the wire. 

“They’re old and sometimes they don’t work,” Lovelace told the court.

The DCSO has 40 cameras, she continued, but only 37 currently operate. The Sheriff’s Office expects to receive $1 million next month to purchase new body and patrol cameras as part of the county’s capital improvement plan.

Lovelace said that even if Deputy Sharp’s dashboard camera was operating the night of the traffic stop, the Sheriff’s Office has issues with data storage that would have prevented the footage from being uploaded.

Allyn Sharp also questioned if Deputy Sharp failed to follow policy by not reporting that his dash camera was inoperable at the beginning of his shift the day of the stop. Lovelace said she would provide documentation to the family if any was available.

Absent from the documents was a written statement by R. Osborne, a trainee who was inside Deputy Sharp’s patrol car when he pulled Bumpass over.

Lovelace told the court that Osborne’s statement was evidence in an ongoing investigation of the case.

The Durham County Sheriff’s Office released a report calling Bumpass’s death a suicide. 

His family is suspicious. His mother, Hermena Bumpass, says her son was not depressed, nor did he have a history of depression. The family also says Bumpass was engaged with his family and community and had plans to attend Durham Tech, earn an associate’s degree, and transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill.

Bumpass graduated early from Hillside High in the winter of 2018. He did not have a criminal record. His family says he was working at FedEx and had applied for financial aid to help pay for college.

On January 14, the family requested that the SBI investigate “in order to avoid any possible conflict or the appearance of any conflict in having the Sheriff’s Office be solely responsible for investigating the possible actions of its own officers in a traffic stop which resulted in the shooting death of the driver.”

DCSO spokesman David Bowser told the INDY in February that the SBI “declined to provide” an independent investigation. The Sheriff’s Office also said it could not release the evidence Bumpass’s family requested because its investigation is ongoing. 

On May 4, following several previous public records requests, Sharp filed a motion for the release of any additional body- and patrol-car camera footage, saying her previous requests for recordings were met with press releases and the “dash camera recordings from a single sheriff’s vehicle, evidently the fourth to arrive at the scene.”

One day later, Judge Hudson ordered the Sheriff’s Office to give the court all recordings from all cameras of responding officers and vehicles that may have recorded what happened. Hudson set Wednesday’s court date to determine what would be turned over to the Bumpass family.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Hermena Bumpass sat quietly beside her attorney. She was one of five family members allowed to attend the hearing amid the pandemic. Two wore red pullovers that read: “Justice4J’Mauri.”

Lovelace told the court that the family could also retrieve Bumpass’s clothes, shoes, wallet, and money, which was stained with blood in the trunk of his car. She said his sedan had overturned several times and the close-range gunshot caused blowback. The barrel of the gun in his possession had blood in it.

“It’s a very bloody scene,” said Lovelace. She added that the uniforms of the first officers who arrived on the scene had “no blood on them.”

Lovelace said Deputy Sharp and Osborne’s hands were tested for gunshot residue but the test results had not been returned from an SBI lab.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, at about 12:39 a.m. on December 15, Deputy Sharp reported that J’Mauri Bumpass pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the head following a traffic stop on Meriwether Drive in North Durham. Deputy Sharp and Osborne said they had pulled Bumpass over for what appeared to be fictitious tags. 

Bumpass complied with the stop. But as Deputy Sharp was getting out of his patrol car, he reported, he heard a gunshot and saw the driver’s side window of Bumpass’s sedan shatter. The car then rolled forward, crashed into a light pole, and overturned on its side, according to an incident report.

Lovelace told the court that a 9 mm Ruger handgun found in Bumpass’s car and his cell phone were at the center of the investigation. She said a close family friend had given the teen the handgun “a couple of weeks earlier” and that it matched the spent shell found in the shattered glass inside of his car.

The Bumpass family thinks that text messages on Bumpass’s cell phone could provide answers about what happened, but the Sheriff’s Office has not returned the device.

Lovelace said that a search warrant for the phone has not been returned. She said that the case is currently classified as a death investigation. But Bumpass’s phone may “show something” and “may go into a different type of investigation.”

At the hearing’s end, Hermena Bumpass slowly walked out of the courtroom and stood in the corridors staring out of a window. Her family comforted her as tears filled her eyes and spilled down her masked face.

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at 

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