DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The family of a 18-year-old who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after an attempted vehicle stop in 2019 has dropped its lawsuit against the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

J’Mauri Bumpass’ family dismissed the suit with prejudice April 4. The family had alleged that members of the office at the time had killed Bumpass and that Sheriff Clarence Birkhead and others took part in a conspiracy to cover it up.

As part of the lawsuit, the named parties participated in a lengthy discovery process, according to the sheriff’s office. The evidence revealed in discovery showed:

  • Bumpass died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his head;
  • The gun used was owned and possessed by Bumpass; and
  • Bumpass was alone in the car when the gun fired.

In addition, the family retracted the allegations made against the sheriff’s office.

“Their retraction of these egregious allegations validates what we have maintained all along, and what the findings of the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office showed, that Mr. Bumpass died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head” Birkhead said in a statement Thursday.

The initial press release from the sheriff’s office came Dec. 15, 2019, and stated that a driver sped away from a traffic stop before hitting a pole and flipping his car multiple times.

A release the following day identified the victim as Bumpass.

Two days after that, yet another release from the office said a preliminary autopsy by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner showed Bumpass died as a result of a “close-range gunshot wound, consistent with suicide”.

An incident report filed by a deputy on Dec. 16 of that year indicated Bumpass was still alive but unresponsive after the crash.



The deputy noted a smoking gun in Bumpass’ lap and a spent shell casing on the floorboard. However, the position of the car prevented deputies from safely pulling Bumpass out.

Because of the conflicting information at the time, both the family and Birkhead asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look at the incident. It declined both requests.

“We as an office, and I as sheriff, have lived with this matter for over three years. During that long period of time, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office has responded to this matter in the most professional and productive way possible. Despite plaintiffs’ unfounded allegations that we were responsible for Mr. Bumpass’ death, we allowed the facts to speak for themselves. We continue to offer our condolences to the Bumpass family as they deal with their grief. This was a tragedy for everyone involved. Suicide leaves many questions unanswered for loved ones. We will never know why J’Mauri took his life at that moment, but we hope that they are able to begin to heal,” Birkhead said.