NC trooper who killed armed 21-year-old acted lawfully, Chatham County DA rules

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The State Highway Patrol trooper who fatally shot Mark Anthony Diaz on Memorial Day during a traffic stop acted lawfully and will not face any criminal charges, the Chatham and Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said.

Diaz, 21, was shot once, fatally, by trooper Rodney N. Cook on May 30 after Diaz pulled a gun out at a traffic stop and stepped out of his vehicle.

In a memo issued this week on his decision, Woodall said Cook was justified in using deadly force according to state law. He based the decision on a review of evidence produced by the State Highway Patrol and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The NCSBI was requested to conduct an investigation of the shooting, which is routine when a law enforcement officer kills someone.

“It is always tragic for all involved when law enforcement officers must use deadly force to protect themselves to the public,” wrote Woodall. “The use of deadly force on this occasion was lawful and reasonable. Nonetheless, the death of Mark Anthony Diaz is a tragic event. He had a family and many friends who will forever be affected by his loss.”

Mark Anthony Diaz, 21, was shot and killed by a State Highway Patrol trooper after brandishing a pistol during a traffic stop in Siler City on May 30, 2022, authorities said.
Mark Anthony Diaz, 21, was shot and killed by a State Highway Patrol trooper after brandishing a pistol during a traffic stop in Siler City on May 30, 2022, authorities said.

Details of officer-involved shooting

The incident unfolded in the town of Siler City around 4:30 p.m. when Cook stopped a pickup truck driven by Diaz for a seatbelt violation.

After Cook stopped the truck near the sidewalk of a residential street, Diaz said he did not have a license and registration to provide the trooper. Cook asked Diaz said he could smell marijuana and asked if any was in the vehicle.

Moments later, dashboard camera footage previously released by the SHP shows a brief struggle between Cook and Diaz while he was still in the driver’s seat. The Highway Patrol said this is when Diaz took out a semiautomatic pistol and Cook tried to disarm him.

As Cook retreated to his car with his hand on his gun holster, Diaz’s hand holding a pistol emerges from the driver’s side window. Cook fired a single shot, which struck Diaz in the chest.

Cook called in the incident on his radio, saying “shots fired,” and then told Diaz to drop his weapon, which was still in his hand when he fell to the ground upon being shot.

The trooper approached him and took the gun out of his hand. He grabbed a first-aid kit from his patrol car, called for Emergency Medical Services and proceeded to perform CPR on Diaz.

Diaz was transported to Chatham County Hospital and was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

He lived in the town of Staley in Randolph County. Moises Diaz, Mark’s older brother, told The N&O in June that he believes his younger brother made a mistake in pulling out a weapon.

“They were going to search his car,” said Diaz, 25. “I think he just got scared.”

Diaz said in June that the Highway Patrol showed his family the dashboard camera video before it was released to the public.

“I got a little bit of clarity out of (the video),” said Moises Diaz. “No matter what the situation was, it’s clarity so that I can move on with my life.”