At about 12:02 a.m. on December 15—37 minutes before the Durham County Sheriff’s Office says he fatally shot himself—J’Mauri Bumpass’s 21-year-old sister texted to ask what everyone was doing. He’d spent the previous night at his mother’s house. Earlier that day, he’d given his younger sister a ride to their father’s home.
Fourteen minutes later, the 18-year-old Bumpass replied, “McDonald’s lookin for sumn to do.”
At 12:21, Bumpass’s 21-year-old sister texted that she needed a ride to their 19-year-old sister’s home. Family members said they were going to the Star Bar in Raleigh.
Ten minutes later at 12:31, Bumpass texted his sister to get dressed; he was coming to pick her up.
Those might have been his last words.
At 12:36, one of their cousins texted, “Y’all about to turn tf up.” He never responded.
At 12:39, Deputy Anthony Sharp—no relation to Bumpass family attorney Allyn Sharp —reported that he pulled over the Chevrolet Impala Bumpass was driving on Meriwether Drive in North Durham because it appeared to have fictitious tags. (It’s unclear why Deputy Sharp ran Bumpass’s plates, or if he had violated any traffic laws.) Bumpass was blocks away from his mother’s home.
According to the official account, 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.
Three patrol cars had already arrived at the scene, but the only dashcam footage the Sheriff’s Office turned over to the Bumpass family is from the fourth patrol car to arrive on Meriwether Drive. It arrived at 12:43.
At 12:44, sheriff’s deputies approached the Impala. A minute later, they reached the car. Two minutes later, a fire truck arrived, followed by EMS. At 1:17, Bumpass was checked into Duke Hospital’s emergency department.
Three hours later, a detective went to Bumpass’s mother’s house to tell her what happened.
At 5:50, he was pronounced dead.
Bumpass wasn’t depressed, his family says, nor did he have a history of depression. And his final texts with family don’t sound like someone planning to kill themselves.
Allyn Sharp thinks Bumpass’s cell phone could shed some light on the mystery. She did not include the phone in a broad public-records request on December 23, but his family did.
The Sheriff’s Office won’t release it to the family.
Family members say the sheriff’s investigator has been trying very hard to get into J’Mauri’s cell phone and to find out his Snapchat name because he has repeatedly asked J’Mauri’s family for that information. They wonder: If the Sheriff’s Office knows that J’Mauri shot himself, then whether it was intentional or accidental, why does it matter to them what’s in his phone or his Snapchat?
The Bumpass family is suspicious about the circumstances of J’Mauri’s death. On January 14, they requested that the SBI investigate “in order to avoid any possible conflict or the appearance of any conflict.” Sheriff’s Office spokesman David Bowser told the INDY earlier this week that the SBI declined.
But the Sheriff’s Office has also told the family it cannot release the records they’ve asked for because Bumpass’s death is under investigation—which the family finds odd, considering it’s being treated as a clear-cut self-inflicted gunshot wound. So they’ve decided to conduct their own inquiry. The Bumpass family has set up a gofundme page to raise funds for an independent autopsy.
They’ve also asked members of the public to contact them if they have information about the fatal shooting and crash.
The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
The Bumpass family is asking members of the public to contact them with any information. Allyn Sharp can be reached at 919-265-9200 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at email@example.com.
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