A little more than a month after Scott Brooks was shot while opening his family’s beloved burger and sandwich shop, investigators are still searching for the killer.
Last week, CMPD shared a few blurry photos and a brief surveillance video clip depicting a hooded suspect with gloves and a gun at Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa on the morning of Monday, December 9. It was the first time local law enforcement provided an update on the case.
Brooks’s family had an update of their own Tuesday night: They’ll hold a press conference about a possible re-opening date on Thursday.
While they do that, CMPD will continue to try to find the person responsible. The visuals the department released last week don’t reveal much about the suspect. It’s hard to tell how tall the person is, or even race or gender.
But someone out there knows about the shooting, which took place before sunrise. Officers found Brooks, 61, at 4:45 a.m., according to the incident report.
CMPD is considering the Brooks case an armed robbery. But they won’t say whether the suspect took any money, as that is considered “a critical part of the investigation.” CMPD says for anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest, it’s offering a reward of $21,000.
After a press conference last week, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said that the reward figure is “significantly more than normal for a homicide.” That’s because the Crime Stoppers money comes from a combination of sources: CMPD, the FBI, and private donors. Most of the 106 other homicide victims last year didn’t draw rewards that large.
“It bothers me that we’re going to put more value on any given life,” Putney told the Agenda. “It’s a significant amount because some of these crimes shock the conscience. That’s one of them.”
Brooks was a well-known local businessman, a co-owner of a beloved family establishment, so naturally his case stands out. Images of him are plastered on posters scattered throughout NoDa, and a number of local breweries collaborated to brew a craft beer in his honor.
His death hit hard in a community that’s not regularly affected by gun violence. It took place in a fast-changing, trendy neighborhood, steps away from new half-million-dollar townhomes.
Of Charlotte’s 107 homicides last year, Brooks was one of the 13 white victims. The rest were either black or Latino, according to data from CMPD released last week. Most victims were young men.
Putney doesn’t like to focus on just that 107 number; the problem is much bigger.
“That number represents a loss of life for 107 families,” Putney said. “I don’t think a number does it justice.”
Brooks’s case is one of about two dozen cases of last year’s homicides that have not been solved.
Investigators, Putney said, have cleared 80 percent of the 2019 homicide cases. “I’m proud of that, but it’s not good enough,” he added.
A case is considered cleared when officers make an arrest, or when the offender dies. A case is also cleared when the district attorney, in conjunction with detectives, determine that the offender committed no crime, or that the action was justified. Self-defense falls into the latter category.
It can take investigators anywhere from a few hours to several years to clear a homicide case, CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said. Every year includes a number of cases that go uncleared.
CMPD, for instance, is still seeking information from the public about the shooting of Na-Zae Scott, a 23-year-old who was killed on McAlway Road on February 9 last year after a drug deal. CMPD is offering a reward of up to $5,000, the standard amount the department puts up.
They’re also searching for leads in the murder of Jennifer Banner, 61, whose body was discovered near Freedom Drive. Captain Rob Dance recently told reporters it was a vicious murder, and “probably the worst case that I’ve personally seen.” Banner’s killer, CMPD said, could be targeting other people who lived a “high-risk” lifestyle, or one that includes prostitution and narcotics.
As it’s doing in recent cases, CMPD regularly turns to its Crime Stoppers program to elicit information from the public on ongoing cases.
Last year, Crime Stoppers received 3,100 anonymous tips, which led to the arrest of 111 suspects. The crimes ranged from minor assault to robbery to homicide.
Community tips to Crime Stoppers also resulted in the removal of 19 illegal guns from the street.
Last year, the total payout through the program was just over $22,000 for multiple cases.
Interestingly, there’s $10,000 in Crime Stoppers award money that anonymous tipsters never collected, for whatever reason. That happens every year, Tufano says.
Of course, not all tips lead to an arrest. Some tips are more helpful than others. But CMPD wants all the information it can get. (By the way, the Crime Stoppers phone number is 704-334-1600.)
“We always encourage anyone with the slightest bit of information to call,” Tufano says. “(Tipsters) may think it’s minimal or irrelevant, but it’s hard to gauge just how big of a help it’s going to be.”