Durham lawyer says officer’s gunshot wound was self-inflicted

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comDecember 20, 2012 

— An attorney representing the man charged with shooting a Durham police officer on Tuesday says the officer shot himself.

John Fitzpatrick is representing Carlos Antonio Riley Jr. of Durham, who has been charged with assault on a law enforcement officer causing serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Police and prosecutors accused Riley, 21, of getting into a fight with Officer Kelly A. Stewart late Tuesday morning when the officer stopped the Nissan 300Z Riley was driving in a parking lot at the Forest Pointe Apartments on Forest Road.

Police said Stewart got into a “struggle” with the motorist and that Stewart was shot in the leg before the suspect drove away.

Stewart was released from the hospital Wednesday night, City Manager Tom Bonfield said Thursday. “He underwent some surgery, but … he is doing better and hopefully on the mend to a speedy recovery,” Bonfield said during a City Council meeting.

Stewart’s service weapon and badge were missing after the incident. Police on Thursday announced that the officer’s badge had been found, but his .45-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun was still missing.

Police also announced that they were searching for two more people who may have been involved in the shooting.

Ledarius Devon Riley, 18, of Rosetta Drive and Dustin McCoy Portee, 20, of North Miami Boulevard are both charged with being an accessory after the fact to a felony, said police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

Fitzpatrick says prosecutors contended in court Wednesday that Riley took Stewart’s badge and gun and then pointed the firearm at the officer. He says he offered a different account of what happened.

“I believe the evidence will show that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said Stewart was not in uniform and was driving what may have been an unmarked car. He said after Stewart pulled Riley over, he got out of his car shouting expletives at Riley.

“Words were exchanged,” Fitzpatrick said. “The officer initiated the struggle.”

Fitzpatrick said he was not at liberty to say why Riley was stopped by Stewart, who is assigned to the department’s special operations division.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s a lot more to it that will come out in open court.”

Michael, the police spokeswoman, declined this week to say why Stewart stopped Riley, or whether the officer had accidentally shot himself, saying the investigation was not complete.

Prosecutors with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office were unavailable for comment Thursday.

The shooting was reported at 10:20 a.m. Tuesday. Investigators found the Nissan a short time later where it had been abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 1336 New Castle Road. A heavily armed Strategic Enforcement Team was brought in and two nearby apartment buildings were evacuated.

Nearly three hours later, police received information that the suspect was at a home in the 1700 block of Rosetta Drive, nearly four miles away. Police found Riley at the home, and he was arrested without incident.

Riley was convicted in 2011 of felony possession of drugs with intent to sell and deliver. He was sentenced to 24 months probation, state records show.

Riley remains in the Durham County jail under $1 million bail, police reported.

Staff writer Jim Wise and News Researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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