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DA: No charges against Morehead City officer accused of shooting fellow officer

By WCTI Staff
Published On: Oct 02 2013 09:27:34 AM CDT
Updated On: Nov 05 2013 03:52:06 PM CST
mhc training accident
MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY -

A Morehead City police officer, who the SBI said accidentally shot a fellow officer during a training exercise, will not face any charges.

District Attorney Scott Thomas  released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“After reviewing the investigative findings of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI), I have determined that no criminal charges will be filed in this matter. Former Officer [Marvin] Willis [lll] demonstrated a high level of negligence in failing to properly clear his handgun before entering the training exercise; however, his negligent conduct does not rise to the level of criminal intent required to prove that he committed a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt." 

Thomas went on to say, "[Willis] could also face a negligence action in civil court."

Willis was fired from the Morehead City Police Department for being "untruthful in [his] statements concerning the events that took place," according to his termination letter that was dated on Oct. 28.

SBI officials said Willis shot Officer Garrett Hardin in the chest during training in the parking lot of the Morehead City Police Department on Oct. 2.

Hardin was not wearing a bullet-proof vest when he was shot in the chest, said his aunt, Lee Ann Flanagan. The bullet went into Hardin's lung. Hardin was put into an induced coma at Vidant Medical Center, but has since returned home.

Before Willis' firing, he was placed on administrative leave following the accident, said Morehead City Police Chief Wrenn Johnson.

(CLICK HERE to view Willis' termination letter.)

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Family members of the Morehead City Police officer shot in the chest said he is out of the hospital and back at home.

Officer Garrett Hardin was shot last week during training in the parking lot of the police station. According to the State Bureau of Investigation, Marvin Willis lll accidentally shot Hardin in the chest on Oct. 2.

Willis has been placed on administrative leave from Morehead City Police, according to Chief Wrenn Johnson.

"Obviously, it was a training accident, and again, I am responsible for this department and our training," said Chief Johnson. "It's clear a mistake was made, and we will take responsibility for that, correct it, and move forward."

Hardin was not wearing a bullet-proof vest when he was shot in the chest, said his aunt, Lee Ann Flanagan. The bullet went into Hardin's lung.

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Family members say an officer shot during a training exercise is out of an induced coma and talking. That officer's chief said mistakes were made in the incident that injured the officer.

Family members said Garrett Hardin is recovering at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville after being shot in the chest Wednesday; Hardin was in a coma until today, when family members said he was taken off a respirator and is alert.

In a news briefing two days after the incident, Morehead City Police Chief Wrenn Johnson said, "Obviously it was a training accident, and again, I am responsible for this department and our training. It's clear a mistake was made, and we will take responsibility for that, correct it and move forward."

The shooting happened at the back parking lot of the police station, which is located on 12th Street. North Carolina Department of Justice Public Information Officer Noelle Tally said one police officer accidentally shot another during training.  A witness who lives across the street, Lee Willis, said he saw police officers training in the parking lot and then he heard a gunshot.

"They put four people in the car, and when they did that, they surrounded the car again and you could hear the clicking of the gun. Then one gun actually went off, and that's when they said 'man shot' and that's when they pulled him out of the car," Willis said.

According to Officer Hardin's aunt, Lee Ann Flanagan, Hardin was not wearing a bullet-proof vest when he was shot in the chest. The aunt said the bullet went into his lung. Family members said Hardin is recovering from surgery at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville; officials at the hospital said Hardin is listed in critical condition. Family members said in order to recover, Hardin cannot move; doctors, therefore, have put Hardin in a medically induced coma.

Flanagan said Hardin has always wanted to be a police officer.

A neighbor of Hardin, Larry Merrell, said the officer is always offering a helping hand. "A nice humble guy, well-mannered, he has good family members here. His father stays there and his aunt stays here, so I am living in between them,"

Family members said Hardin is from Havelock and is set to be married in May.