A homicide suspect being sought by police ambushed officers outside Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police headquarters late Thursday, shooting one officer in the leg before being killed by return fire.
“He ambushed us,” Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters.
Court records show the suspect, 23-year-old Jonathan Bennett, was due to stand trial Feb. 7 for felony probation violation in connection with a 2017 incident.
Just before 11 p.m., officers from the North Tryon Division and N.C. Probation and Parole were in the CMPD parking lot when Bennett arrived in a white car, Putney said.
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The group of six to eight officers was being briefed on an unrelated investigation in the parking lot when Bennett started shooting, media outlets report.
One CMPD officer, Casey Shue, was taken to Carolinas Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the leg, police said. The injury is not life-threatening. Shue was hired on July 21, 2014, and is assigned to the North Tryon Division Crime Reduction Unit.
Two CMPD officers and two probation officers fired back and critically wounded Bennett. He was taken to Carolina Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Putney said. The CMPD officers have been identified as Jeffrey Zederbaum and Jared Decker. Zederbaum was hired in 2009 and Decker was hired on July 21, 2014.
Bennett was a suspect in the fatal shooting of Brittany White, also 23, earlier Thursday in west Charlotte. Bennett and White were the parents of an infant daughter, and Bennett took the child with him after that shooting, police said. The daughter was later found safe.
Putney said it was doubtful that there would be any body camera footage from the shooting outside CMPD headquarters because it was an ambush.
“Times like this make you appreciate people who voluntarily put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” Putney said, emphasizing that officers have a “dangerous job.”
WSOC-TV reporter DaShawn Brown reported hearing shots and seeing a body in the middle of CMPD’s parking lot shortly before 11 p.m. She and a station photographer had been outside police headquarters for a live report, she said.
“The only thing I could think about was to take cover,” Brown reported on the station’s 11 p.m. newscast. “I saw officers scrambling. I looked and saw flashes from a gun. I’m not sure, but it seemed like a dozen shots.”
A dozen shots were reportedly fired by Bennett before he was shot. One witness tweeted that the wounded officer was “in the bushes and could be heard screaming” before being placed in the back of a patrol car.
TV station WCNC reported MEDIC took two patients to Carolinas Medical Center, one with serious injuries and one with minor injuries.
WSOC reported the call for assistance at the Law Enforcement Center produced a flood of police cars rushing to the scene. Over the radio, another officer is heard urging responding officers to slow down.
“Slow your traffic, slow your traffic, nobody get hurt,” the officer said. “Slow the traffic. Suspect is in custody. Slow the traffic.”
Bennett was considered armed and dangerous as police searched for him after the killing of White. A source close to the investigation told the Obeserver’s news partner WBTV that Bennett changed the license plate on his vehicle before going to the law enforcement center. He had last been seen driving an older, white Ford Expedition with New York license plates HUP3071, reported WCNC.
Court records show Bennett served two and a half months in prison for felony breaking and entering, and larceny after breaking and entering. He was on probation for a 2016 charge of speeding to elude arrest, records show.
Bennett has been jailed at least three times in Mecklenburg County since 2016, for charges including assault on a female, communicating threats and larceny.
Records dating back to 2010 show he was previously charged with felony possession of stolen goods, using a stolen credit card, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of marijuana, resisting an officer, trespassing, disorderly conduct, assault and battery and probation violation. He was found guilty of felony breaking and entering, speeding to elude arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, second degree trespassing, assault and battery, resisting an officer, and larceny after breaking and entering.
Putney said the injured officer was in good spirits.
When police shoot someone, two investigations begin as part of standard procedure. The shooting will be investigated like any other shooting in Charlotte, and CMPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau will also hold an internal investigation to see if officers followed department policy and procedures. The officers involved will be placed on administrative leave.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a homicide detective or call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.