Deputy shot machete-wielding man 7 times, family friend says

Machete-wielding man said to be mentally ill

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comDecember 17, 2012 

CORRECTION: This story was corrected at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, to clarify that deputy Damien King did not shoot Robert Barnes. The Johnston County Sheriff's Office has not released the deputy's name.

CORINTH-HOLDERS -- The machete-wielding man who was shot and killed by a Johnston County sheriff’s deputy early Saturday morning had grabbed the weapon during a fight with his brother, according to a family friend who witnessed the incident.

The fight between Robert Lamont Barnes, 32, and his brother prompted two calls to 911 just before 1 a.m. Saturday, said the friend, Chris Hooker.

Robert Barnes was inside a home at 572 Richardson Road when a deputy came to the front door, Hooker said. Barnes answered the door, still armed with the machete.

“The deputy took off running,” Hooker said.

Hooker said Robert Barnes went after a second deputy at the scene, and that deputy shot him twice. Robert Barnes kept coming and the deputy fired five more shots that all struck Barnes in the upper torso, Hooker said. Barnes died in the middle of Richardson Road.

“Robert wasn’t a bad guy. He was a loving guy,” Hooker said. “About an hour before all this happened, we were in the house joking around.”

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office has not released details, including the names of those involved. Spokeswoman Tammy Amaon said a 911 caller had reported a “disturbance” among family members at the home in the rural Corinth-Holders part of the county, and that as soon as deputies arrived, a man approached one of them with a machete.

Amaon said the deputy who fired the fatal shots had been placed on administrative leave with pay – standard practice for shootings involving law enforcement – while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the incident.

Hooker said he, Robert Barnes and his brother Travis were at one of the Barnes family homes on Richardson Road drinking and playing video games when Robert Barnes decided he wanted to go outside and shoot his rifle. Hooker said he managed to convince him that it was nearly time to go to bed. Then, he said, a series of words between Travis and Robert Barnes turned into a fistfight.

Robert Barnes retrieved his rifle, but Hooker said he and another family member, Jesse Lee Barnes, 78, managed to wrest the weapon away from him.

“He went to get the machete and was swinging it,” Hooker said.

Hooker and Jesse Barnes both called 911. Hooker is engaged to a member of the family.

Robert Barnes’ aunt, Wilma Jean Hocutt, who lives at 562 Richardson Road, said he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, though she wasn’t sure how long ago.

“He just came back home a year or two ago,” said Hocutt, 61. “He was living in different places. He would go to the Smithfield mental health center to get his medicine.”

News researcher Teresa Leonard contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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