In the four years before state Sen. R.C. Soles Jr. shot a man at his house in August, records show Tabor City police officers responded to at least 40 emergency calls to Soles' home and law office.
Some of the incidents were routine, such as an alarm being set off accidentally or someone dialing 911 and then hanging up.
But dozens of the calls involved circumstances such as neighbors hearing gunshots and screams, attempted burglaries, loud arguments, reported assaults and complaints of young people on mopeds circling Soles' house.
At the time of the shooting, agents with the State Bureau of Investigation were already inquiring about Soles' relationships with several young men with long criminal records.
"Those young men have, in essence, been terrorizing him for years," said Joe Cheshire, Soles' defense attorney. "He has been having to seek the assistance of the authorities to try to keep them away from him. That's what the truth is."
In a two-week stretch in September 2008, records show police were called to the Soles' home seven times.
"We have some locations with more," Tabor City Police Chief Donald Dowless said Thursday when asked about the frequency of emergency calls at Soles' sprawling waterfront home. "We have some with a whole lot less, too."
The SBI is now probing the Aug. 23 incident during which Soles, 74, shot Thomas Kyle Blackburn, 22. Blackburn's wound was not life-threatening and Cheshire said the senator acted in self-defense.
Tapes of 911 calls and police incident reports show law enforcement officers have repeatedly been called to intervene in incidents involving Soles.
In March, for example, a man called Columbus County 911 dispatchers to report that two men were at Soles' office, loudly cursing the senator, who was in his car. "He needs help," the caller said. "This happens all the time. I know he's had problems."
Soles, a Democrat whose district stretches through a sparsely populated area near the South Carolina line, did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday.
In past interviews, Soles has said generosity is at the heart of his ties to the men. Soles, the Senate's longest-serving member and an influential figure in the legislature, said he has been a financially successful lawyer in a rural community and that he wants to help some of his former clients straighten out their lives.
"He has represented most of them from time to time," Cheshire said of the young men. "And like he has with hundreds of people in that county, he has tried to help them. They have taken advantage of him, they have assaulted him, they have threatened him, they have stalked him, they have moved in packs to do so. It is well-known in the community that that is the case."
The senator typically does not call 911 when there is trouble, including when he shot Blackburn. Chief Dowless said Soles has his cell phone number, as well as those of several Tabor City officers, and that he dials them directly when he needs assistance. Most of the 911 calls released by the county, following a public records request by The News & Observer, originated with Soles' neighbors.
On Sept. 12, 2008, a 911 caller reported that Blackburn, his sister and two others were riding around on Soles' property on mo-peds and beating on the windows of the senator's house. Police responded and told Blackburn to leave.
Two days later, Blackburn and two others were arrested fleeing from Soles' house after a witness reported seeing them kick in the senator's door.
Records show teenager B.J. Wright was at Soles' house during a night in 2006 when police responded to calls from neighbors that shots and screaming could be heard coming from the property. The officers left after Soles told them everything was fine.
Wright, now 23, was also at Soles' house in August when the senator shot Blackburn, according to police.
Stacey Scott told a Wilmington television reporter last year that Soles fondled him when he was 15 and then later paid him $1,000 to keep quiet. Scott, now 27, later recanted, saying he was high on drugs during the taped interview.
In July 2008, Scott called Columbus County 911 and claimed that Soles had run over his hand with a car, punched him in the face and threatened to kill him. Officers arrested Scott, who was intoxicated, for trespassing on Soles' property and filing a false report.
Three months later, Scott called again to say Soles had pepper-sprayed him and beaten him with a plastic pipe before pushing him down a flight of stairs.
"He come out macing me and pushed me down the stairs," Scott told the 911 operator. "He assaulted me. I've got blood marks where he done it."
No charges were filed.
Police records show Allen Wayne Strickland, 17, has twice been charged with trespassing on Soles' property.
In May, Strickland reported to police that Soles had assaulted him with pepper spray. Three hours later, Strickland told officers that Soles apologized and that he no longer wanted to press charges.
Strickland was charged in August by SBI agents with arson, accused of setting fire to a house that the teen said Soles bought for him.
Released on a $500,000 cash bond, Strickland was arrested again last month for being at Soles' house.
A special prosecutor from the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper is now weighing whether to file criminal charges in the August shooting at the senator's home.
Cheshire said he is confident his client has acted honorably. The two have known each other since Cheshire defended Soles in the senator's 1983 federal corruption trial, in which he was acquitted.
"I know what the facts are, and I know the hell this has put him through," he said. "I've known him for a long time. He's a wonderful, kind man who's helped a lot of people."
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