Monday, January 21, 2013 12:06 AM
Mom seeks answers in son's fatal shooting
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
Five weeks after her son was shot and killed in a struggle with a Pennsylvania police officer, Barbara Bagley is still asking why he had to die.
The Wilson resident is waiting for prosecutors to determine whether 30-year-old Noahcell Bagley was shot intentionally or whether an accidental discharge took his life. Authorities also will determine whether the officer was justified in using deadly force.
"No matter what type of lifestyle he led, no matter what he was going through in his life, the questions that need to be answered haven’t been answered yet,” Barbara Bagley said.
Noahcell Bagley died in a struggle with a Chester, Pa. police officer on Dec. 12 when the officer’s gun went off, according to the Delaware County district attorney’s office. Bagley ran from police when officers stopped his car because he had an outstanding arrest warrant.
Prosecutors would not release the officer’s name. District attorney’s spokeswoman Emily Harris said the office plans to complete its investigation later this month or in early February.
"Currently, the investigation of the police officer’s use of lethal force is still under investigation by the district attorney’s Special Investigations Unit,” Harris said. "The case is expected to wrap up within the next few weeks.”
Noahcell Bagley lived in Chester, Pa., a 34,000-population Philadelphia suburb. He leaves behind a fiancÃ©e and her 8-year-old daughter along with his parents and extended family.
‘WE DON’T UNDERSTAND’
Noahcell Bagley was working to better himself after serving five years in a Pennsylvania prison for a 2006 robbery conviction, his mother said.
The 30-year-old was an aspiring rapper who performed in Philadelphia. He enjoyed working on cars and had opened a repair shop in Sharon Hill, Pa., with his cousin. Barbara Bagley said her son also enjoyed drawing and sketching.
The grieving mother said she wishes she could question the police officer whose gun took Noahcell’s life.
"Why did you shoot my son?” Bagley said. "Why did you kill him? We don’t understand. It’s got us all baffled.”
A medical examiner’s report shows that Noahcell Bagley died of two gunshot wounds, one to the right arm and one to the left buttock. Barbara Bagley said that shows her son was shot from behind.
"If he was fighting with the officer, then still, why two different spots?” she asked.
A robust body of case law establishes that police are justified in using deadly force in order to protect themselves or others from serious injury or death. In the 1985 case Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court ruled that officers can use lethal force to prevent escape if they have probable cause to believe the suspect will kill or injure someone.
Barbara Bagley wants to know why officers didn’t use pepper spray, a stun gun or another less-lethal tool to capture Noahcell.
"A Taser could have taken him down,” she said. "We all make our decisions in life. Noah made his. Does that give the officer the right to take his life? These are the questions left unanswered.”
After prosecutors release their report, Barbara Bagley said she might consider legal action.
"There’s not enough money in this world to bring Noah back,” she said. "I refuse for this to have anything to do with money. It’s about justice.”
SUICIDE BY COP?
While she doesn’t believe her son deserved to die, Barbara Bagley acknowledges that Noahcell may have taken desperate measures to avoid capture, and those measures might have resulted in his death.
Since his release from prison, Noahcell Bagley had told family friends that he was willing to die in order to stay out of jail. He mentioned being reunited with his late brother.
"He said he had told my husband that he was not going back to jail,” Barbara Bagley said. "He had told a friend of ours down in South Carolina that he was ready to go see his brother.”
Noahcell’s mother said she could understand the officer’s actions if her son did something to provoke the shooting. But she can’t accept the prospect that her son was intentionally shot twice for simply trying to run away.
"I don’t know if it’s the right thing to say, but in the situation how he was living his life, I could cope with it if he egged it on, if he was hitting the officer, if he made the officer fear for his life, I could cope with that,” Barbara Bagley said. "But if there was some wrongdoing, I could not cope with that.”
Until district attorney’s investigators in Delaware County complete their probe, Barbara Bagley said she can’t get a copy of her son’s autopsy. The only documentation she has is Noahcell’s short-form death certificate.
Nearly every weekend, Bagley visits the Hamilton Burial Garden in Wilson to talk to her son. If she’d had the chance to talk to him the night of his death, she would have asked him to surrender.
"Don’t do it, baby,” she said. "Don’t do it. You’re going to hurt too many people. You’re going to hurt too many lives here on Earth. Go do your time. You know I’m always going to be there for you.”
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