Details remain scarce in the shooting death of a man in Grimesland on New Year’s Day, and a friend said the man’s family is concerned that an arrest has yet to be made.

Brandon Hardy, 38, of Winterville was found suffering from a gunshot wound at 3:24 a.m. at 3340 Alvin Road. Hardy would later succumb to his injuries.

Keith Cooper, who tutored a high school Hardy in math and English in 1998, recalled him being a hard worker.

“He was a fine gentleman,” said Cooper, a social worker who founded the Benevolence Corps community outreach group.

“He was fairly quiet, very reticent and talked very little. He seemed very motivated, inspired and encouraged to do better,” Cooper said. “After he finished with tutoring and mentoring he had since met a woman, had children, whatever the case may be. I heard very good, positive things about him from his mother when I ran into her at different events. She would always say ‘Brandon asked about you,’ or that he was working and doing well. That is the Brandon Hardy I knew.”

Cooper said the family voiced concern that the investigation was not moving quickly enough. He said he reached out to Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance, telling her Hardy was a model citizen. Dance, Cooper said, echoed his desire for a thorough investigation. It was another thing the sheriff said that made him take notice.

“She said, and I thought this was interesting or odd, ‘Let me warn you, our job as a sheriff’s department is to fact find. Our job is to find facts. It will be up to the DA as to whether or not to pursue charges.”

Cooper said he asked whether any charges would be pursued, to which Dance said she did not know.


“My concern is that this gentleman, Brandon Hardy, was shot,” Cooper said. “If you know who shot him, regardless of the reason the assailant had for doing it, he should be locked up. ...”

Cooper said the sheriff also mentioned that a shooter can claim self defense. The sheriff’s office declined the newspaper’s request to speak with Dance about the case.

It confirmed that Dance and Cooper spoke. Lee Darnell, public information officer for the office, clarified that during the discussion there was a mention, hypothetically only, regarding the sheriff’s office’s mission as fact finders and that in some cases shooters can claim self defense.

Darnell said the case is still being investigated at this time and that he is unable to release further information so as not to jeopardize the integrity of the investigative process.

The news of Hardy’s passing stunned Cooper.

“My wife was reading the news wire,” Cooper recalled. “She mentioned the name of someone who had been shot in the head on the first of the year and I said ‘Would you repeat that name?’ I was hoping I was maybe daydreaming or that I did not understand. She said Brandon Hardy.”

That the incident happened in Grimesland was an initial red flag that the man in question was Cooper’s former student. Hardy had grown up and gone to Sweet Hope Church on Mobley’s Bridge Road, Cooper said. He got confirmation when he called Hardy’s mother.

“I told her to please tell me it was not her son who was shot in the head,” Cooper said. “She said, unfortunately, ‘That is my baby.’ She said ‘That is your Brandon. The Brandon that you used to tutor.’ … I immediately offered my heartfelt condolences. I told her as she grieves, I grieve.”

Contact Pat Gruner at pgruner@reflector.com and 252-329-9566.