WILMINGTON -- The community must reserve judgment about the Thursday night shooting that killed a 23-year-old Wilmington man until all the facts are available, Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said Friday.
The incident began when two officers responded to Princess Place Drive after multiple complaints about a man acting strange and running around in the road wearing only a T-shirt, Evangelous said.
When they arrived, officers Jason Whitt and Jason Howard saw Phillipe McIver near the intersection of Princess Place and Greendale Drive, Evangelous said.
Whitt tried to escort McIver out of the road when he got upset and began to struggle with the officer. McIver managed to get Whitt's gun out of the holster and fired at him.
As Whitt retreated, Howard fired at McIver.
"Officer Whitt thought he was going to die last night," Evangelous said during the Friday press conference. "Officer Whitt believes (Howard) saved his life."
Still, it is unclear exactly where McIver was hit or how he died, Evangelous said. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday morning in Jacksonville.
"We know shots were fired, we know he was hit," Evangelous said, but there were other "circumstances" at play that "will become abundantly clear in the next few days."
He called the mood of the department "somber" and said the officers involved are very upset.
"It's an unfortunate incident, my heart goes out to his mom and his family," he said.
Tensions in the community have been high since the shooting. Several hundred "extremely unruly" people gathered in the streets late Thursday night and early Friday morning, Evangelous said, throwing bottles and rocks at police officers and firing guns.
Police had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd, Evangelous said.
During the press conference, a man who identified himself as McIver's uncle began heckling Evangelous, telling him McIver was a good man and asking him how he could know the facts if he was not there.
"Sir, we don't have all the facts at this time," Evangelous responded.
The State Bureau of Investigations is reviewing dashboard camera video of the shooting, as well as other physical evidence and testimony as part of the criminal investigation. The police department is doing a parallel internal investigation for administrative purposes, Evangelous said.
District Attorney Ben David said he spoke to McIver's mother early Friday morning to ask her to be patient and trust the investigation process.
"I ask this community for calm while we do that," he said.
While the investigation continues, the two officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, Evangelous said.
Reported by Jennifer Moore