WILMINGTON — One of the New Hanover County deputies thought to have shot and killed college student Peyton Strickland in a police raid last week shot two teenage drug dealers five years ago during a confrontational traffic stop.
Cpl. Christopher Long, 34, said after the February 2001 shooting that the driver, Gregory Donnell Miller, 17, was trying to run over him, but Miller later denied it. Long shot him and his friend inside the car, Terry Lamar Green, 18.
Miller and Green were wounded.
The county's then-district attorney decided not to bring charges against Long after reviewing a State Bureau of Investigation report on the incident. He refused to release the report.
A jury convicted Miller of assault with a deadly weapon (the car) on a law enforcement officer. He and Green were convicted of possessing marijuana with the intent to sell it. Green later died in what police said was a drug-related shooting.
Following standard procedure, New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey has put Long and two other officers on paid leave while the SBI investigates the Dec. 1 shooting death of Strickland, a Durham native who was attending Cape Fear Community College.
Long, a full-time member of the sheriff's heavily armed Emergency Response Team, was most recently assigned to provide security in New Hanover public schools, Causey said. The 10-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office is paid $43,323 a year, Causey said.
Another deputy now under scrutiny, Larry Robinson, was also involved in the prior incident. He helped Long try to stop Miller's car before Long shot into it, according to news reports at the time.
Robinson, 34, has been a deputy for a dozen years and a detective the past three, the sheriff said. Like the other deputies involved in Strickland's shooting, he was a member of the special response unit, which is like a SWAT team. Robinson, who makes $44,172 a year, is also on paid leave.
So is the third deputy who Causey says fired at Strickland: Sgt. Greg Johnson, 39. When not working with the crisis team, Johnson is assigned to work at New Hanover's jail in the rural northern reaches of the county, the sheriff said. Johnson, a 10-year veteran of the office, is paid $46,845 a year.
The men were part of a seven-man Emergency Response Team that raided Strickland's rented home at the request of UNC-Wilmington police. The campus police suspected Strickland, 18, and two friends of beating and robbing another college student of two Sony PlayStation 3 video-game consoles on the night of Nov. 17.
Special squad's duties
The specialized squad of deputies has 26 members, 20 of whom perform other duties most of the time, the sheriff said. They typically handle high-risk situations such as hostage-takings, armed standoffs, armed suicide attempts, school emergencies and the arrest of suspects thought to be heavily armed.
State and local authorities have not yet explained exactly what happened during the raid of Strickland's home off Long Leaf Acres Drive in Wilmington or why the unarmed student was shot.
Under state law and Sheriff's Office policy, members of the response team are supposed to shoot to kill only when they think that they or others face imminent mortal danger. Another Sheriff's Office policy requires the team to carry out its duties "in a manner which affords minimum peril to Sheriff's Office personnel and citizens who may be directly or indirectly involved."
Causey said he expects to disclose more about the shooting after the SBI completes its report.
"It's the top priority for me and the district attorney," Causey, 62, said in an interview. "The SBI has been here around the clock."
District Attorney Ben David, who requested the investigation, did not return calls Thursday seeking information about the case.
Causey, who ordered the deputies involved not to discuss the shooting publicly, said they -- and he -- have received threats since it happened. One Internet blog, he said, threatened that Strickland's friends "will come down from Durham and kill the cop who did it."
On Wednesday, Causey said, an anonymous caller warned him to beware, and hung up.
"I'm going to have to dig out my gun, sure as the world," the sheriff said. "We've had a bunch of threats. I've had about as many people supporting us, too."
Staff writer Matthew Eisley can be reached at 829-4538 or email@example.com.