By Sarah Nagem
A nonprofit group that advocates for police transparency and accountability is calling for the removal of Robeson County District Attorney Matthew Scott for his handling of a case in which sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a man last year.
Kathy Greggs, co-founder of Fayetteville PACT, helped lead a protest in Lumberton on Saturday calling for justice for Matthew Oxendine. Oxendine, who had a history of drug use and mental illness, was killed by a SWAT team from the Robeson County’s sheriff’s office in January 2021 after he called 911.
Scott did not bring charges against the deputies.
Greggs said her organization, an acronym for Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce, plans to file a legal motion next month for the removal of Scott for violating his oath of office.
The group also wants the FBI to investigate Scott, Greggs said, and it wants to see the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation report on Oxendine’s death.
“We don’t stop until everybody is held accountable,” Greggs said after the protest, which drew about two dozen participants.
Scott declined to comment about the protest. In June, he said in a statement to the media that “prosecution is not warranted at this time.” He said he made his decision not to charge the deputies “after a thorough review of the North Carolina SBI independent investigation and consulting with attorneys in the Special Prosecutions and Law Enforcement Section at the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.”
During the protest Saturday, some people carried signs that showed an autopsy picture of Oxendine’s bullet-riddled face. They chanted “Justice for Matthew Oxendine” as they marched along Elm Street.
Oxendine, 46, was well-known to the sheriff’s office. He was shot by a Robeson County deputy in 2004 during an encounter in which he was charged with assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer.
He struggled with depression, his family has said, and he had a history of calling 911 when he used drugs or alcohol. On Jan. 9, 2021, he called 911 and hung up. A dispatcher then called him back.
The sheriff’s office said deputies who arrived at the scene shot Oxendine, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a PT Cruiser, after he showed what appeared to be a firearm. The SBI later said the weapon was a toy gun.
Greg Oxendine, Matthew Oxendine’s brother, said he wants more answers about what happened that night. He said his brother was in a mental-health crisis and needed help.
SBI reports are not public record, and the deputies did not have body-worn cameras or dashboard cameras.
Michael Harris, a Greensboro activist who attended the protest, said the event was just one way for people to call for change in Robeson County. He encouraged protesters to vote and attend local government meetings.
“It’s not what we do today, but it’s what we do after today,” he said.
Three other families at the protest said they too wanted justice after their loved ones were killed in Robeson County, which has one of the highest violent-crime rates in North Carolina.
Stephanie Minnnigan-Judd’s son, Tahleel Minnigan, was killed near Maxton in December 2020.
“Every time you turn around, there’s someone getting murdered here,” Minnigan-Judd said. “Most of the time, they’re getting away with it.”
Greggs said Fayetteville PACT is dedicated to bringing justice to the Oxendine family and so many others.
But removing a district attorney from office is extremely rare in North Carolina.
Last spring, Greg Newman was removed from office as district attorney for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. A Superior Court judge ruled that Newman engaged in misconduct, the Asheville Citizen Times reported.
It was only the third time in state history a district attorney was removed, according to the newspaper.