BOONE — A newly released autopsy report shows that the man who died in an officer-involved shooting died from one gunshot wound to the abdomen during an altercation late in the night of March 30 along the 2200 block of Hardin Road.
District Attorney Seth Banks said he is seeking to make a determination in the next two weeks regarding the shooting following the July 5 release of autopsy and toxicology results, which give new details on what happened that night, according to officials.
“We’re working diligently to come to a determination on this matter and fill the public in as quickly as we can,” Banks said on Monday, July 8.
The reports come three months after Andrew John Mason, 22, was fatally shot by a Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy, identified as Adam Gragg by Sheriff Len Hagaman following the incident, around 11:25 p.m. on March 30, according to multiple accounts of the night.
The autopsy was conducted on Mason on April 1 by Mark Giffen, a medical examiner in Forsyth County at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Gillen also took specimens from Mason on April 1 and received the results of toxicology testing on June 3.
“When the officer arrived, he found Mason in the roadway where the attempted break-in occurred,” according to a preliminary summary of circumstances compiled by Giffen, sourced from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and hospital records. “The officer stopped his vehicle and attempted to make contact with (Mason.) Mason then reportedly rushed at the officer and a physical altercation ensued during with Mason attempted to take the officer’s weapon. The officer managed to break free and fired one shot from his service weapon, striking (Mason.)”
According to the reports, Gragg fired one shot from his .40 caliber gun, which hit Mason in the abdomen.
The toxicology and autopsy results for Mason and report of investigation by the medical examiner were released on July 5 by the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The toxicology report, completed by Giffen and approved by the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, found that Mason had two medications in his system that were administered during his hospital treatment, etomidate and ketamine. The toxicology report didn’t detect any traces of opiates, acids, ethanol or cocaine metabolite.
The report also states Mason showed signs of multiple blunt force injuries to the head, abdomen and upper and lower extremities. Mason had abrasions on the left temple, contusions on the abdomen, abrasions and contusions on his left shoulder and hands and abrasions on his knees and right foot.
Giffin said he could not determine when those blunt force traumas took place — if they were present previously or not. He also could not say what would have caused those injuries.
Banks said he had received the reports on July 5 and had begun the process of contacting Mason’s family members to interview. Speaking on July 9, Patricia Shupe, Mason’s mother, confirmed she was going to meet with the district attorney but declined to discuss the case. David Mason, Andrew’s father, has hired Boone attorney Tom Speed. A request for comment from Speed’s office was not returned by press time. Speed previously said he would look at the body camera footage before making any legal decisions.
In late June, Banks said he had received the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation’s report on the incident and was waiting on the toxicology and autopsy reports.
“We got those and we’re working to make a determination as quickly as possible,” Banks said. “Any determination and any press release will be contingent on us meeting with the family.”
Banks confirmed there was body camera footage of the incident from the officers involved and that would be part of his review.
The incident occurred when multiple 911 calls were made by Hardin Road residents, the first at 11:24 p.m. from 2145 Hardin Road. According to the audio of the call, the occupant informed dispatchers of a suspicious male banging on the front door demanding to be let in. Other 911 calls by neighboring residences described a man as screaming while walking up Hardin Road.
A December 2018 traffic citation lists 2342 Hardin Road, Boone, as a home address for Mason.
Hagaman described the encounter between Mason and Gragg as a “violent struggle” in a March 31 statement following the shooting.
“(Mason) was rushed to Watauga Medical Center before being transferred to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital for medical care,” Giffen’s report states. “Despite aggressive treatment, the wound was not survivable.”
Mason was declared dead at 3:24 a.m. on March 31, four hours after the shooting, according to the autopsy. The ultimate cause of death was deemed to be the loss of blood as a result of the gunshot wound.
Gragg was subsequently put on administrative leave, pending the investigation. Questions regarding Gragg’s status with WCSO were not returned, but sheriff’s reports indicate Gragg has been on active duty since at latest April 17, about three weeks after the incident.