Shooting victim's body exhumed for autopsy on cause of death

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Phillip Napier, a 25-year-old Benton Harbor man, was laid to rest February 5 after being shot in the lower abdomen on January 24.

But Friday, the Benton Harbor graduate and Navy veteran’s body was exhumed by officials after discovering an autopsy was never done.

“He was seated in his vehicle on the side of the road near the intersection of Ogden and Division, he was struck at least one time by a projectile, the officers who responded initially were able to control the bleeding and he was transported to the hospital,” said Michael Sites, Detective Sergeant with Michigan State Police.

Phillip’s mother, Theresa Napier, said her son died at Lakeland Hospital the day after the shooting, but didn’t know until Thursday that a medical examiner was not brought in to Lakeland after his death, or that her son’s body was never taken for an autopsy.

Officers told her that unless her son’s body is exhumed, the investigation into his death can’t continue.

Theresa said she couldn’t spend much time in the hospital with her son due to COVID-19, and now there are even more questions surrounding just how he died.

While detectives have no suspects on the shooting yet, they are sure of one thing.

“We do not believe he was the target of the shooting, he was an innocent bystander,” said Sites. “I know there was a gathering of people, but from our knowledge, Phillip was not inside or at that party. We believe it was fired from a vehicle driving through the area.”

ABC57 did reach out to Lakeland Hospital regarding Napier’s body not being sent for an autopsy, they said they cannot comment due to patient privacy.

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office said they can’t speak on the pending investigation.

ABC57 will stay on this story and bring you updates as we learn more.

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