Shooting of Raleigh officer followed a home break-in where guns were stolen, police say

The 23-year-old man charged with shooting a Raleigh police officer Wednesday night spent the previous hours breaking into a Holly Springs house and stealing six firearms, investigators say.

Last week, according to police, he robbed a man of his car at gunpoint in Raleigh.

Cedric Jamal Kearney of Henderson appeared in court Thursday with his head bandaged, his bail set at $2.5 million, accused of shooting Officer C.D. Ainsworth multiple times with a .45-caliber handgun.

Ainsworth, who was recovering from surgery at WakeMed, had been investigating a stolen car when he was shot off Western Boulevard around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. His wounds drew officers to an all-night vigil at the hospital and prompted prayers of recovery from thousands, including U.S. Rep. David Price and the Wolfpack Nation following N.C. State University, Ainsworth’s alma mater.

Raleigh police officer C.D. Ainsworth

Kearney was charged Thursday with attempted murder, assault on a law enforcement officer, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy, according to court records.

Police late Thursday that Kearney was also charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer with a firearm. They say he also fired at Officer B.A. Halpin on Wednesday night. Halpin “returned fire but did not strike anyone,” police said.

Kearney was arrested on Wendy Lane, apparently hiding in a shed.

A second man taken into custody in connection with the shooting, Antonio Dequan Fletcher, 20, of Cary was charged with possession of a stolen .32-caliber pistol. He did not appear in court Thursday and was hospitalized for an unrelated ailment.

Arrest warrants describe a string of crimes leading up to the shooting. In one, Holly Springs police accuse Kearney of breaking into a house on Steedmont Drive on Wednesday and taking six guns, including a Mac-11 semiautomatic, an SKS “bullpup” rifle with a bayonet and an “uzi” pistol.

Police say that on Jan. 4 Kearney robbed a man while armed with a semiautomatic pistol, taking his phone, wallet and car. Ainsworth responded to the robbery, which happened in the 1200 block of Teakwood Place, according to a police report.

A man called 911 Wednesday and said the stolen vehicle was parked on Teakwood and that two people who got out of car were acting “suspicious,” according to a recording released Thursday.

Ainsworth responded to the call.

Police shootings are rare in Raleigh. The last time an officer was shot was in 2016, when an officer sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries investigating a break-in at an apartment complex.

The last time a Raleigh officer died from gunshot wounds in the line of duty was in 1997. Detective Paul Hale died on a stakeout in a Lenoir Street apartment.

Ainsworth graduated with a psychology degree from N.C. State, according to the City of Raleigh’s website. He graduated from the Raleigh police academy in December 2017.

“Officers like Charles Ainsworth do whatever it takes to keep our city safe,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said in a prepared statement. “We are all; Council members, City staff, and residents, thinking of Officer Ainsworth as he continues to receive care at WakeMed. We will also be thinking of all the officers who carry on today with heavy hearts, and thank them for their service.”

At least two civilian supporters showed up Thursday afternoon to see the officer’s accused shooter make his first court appearance.

Stephen McNair, 40, said he was meeting his fiancee near Moore Square last month when he felt faint and dropped to the sidewalk near Ainsworth’s patrol car.

“He came and helped me,” McNair said.

“He’s the nicest officer,” said McNair’s fiancee Megan O’Neal. “He was very supportive, very friendly. When I saw his picture, I said, ‘I know that guy.’“

On Thursday morning, police had taped off a city block around the Driftwood apartments, and a Jeep sat just outside with its passenger window broken.

During the hunt for the suspects Wednesday night, some residents who live off of Western Boulevard hunkered on the floors of their homes, keeping away from windows and monitoring news reports of a fugitive on the streets.

Beth Hawkins got notice through a Facebook group at around 9 p.m. and kept low in her teenage son’s room as helicopters circled overhead.

“We heard booms and gunshots,” she said. “At this point, I’m pretty scared. The lights from the helicopters were literally coming in the house.”

Later, she said, neighbors closer to the action reported that police had discovered a suspect hiding in a shed, and that officers evacuated the homeowner before closing in. Soon, Hawkins said, neighbors posted pictures of police hugging each other once the arrest had been made.

Part of the Interstate 440 Beltline was closed Wednesday evening, and so were many neighborhood streets.

Natalie Capp sat in her car on Driftwood Drive for over an hour, waiting to go home to her 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Deese.

Deese was home alone when she heard multiple gunshots, and then police sirens. Deese said she eventually moved from the living room to a bedroom and boarded up the door.

“I have a lot of anxiety right now, but I am managing,” she said over the phone.

Crime scene tape along Teakwood Drive on Thursday, January 10, 2019 in Raleigh, N.C. marks the area where Raleigh Police officer C.D. Ainsworth was shot on Wednesday night west of downtown Raleigh. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Some neighbors abandoned their vehicles and walked home as helicopters circled above. But Capp didn’t want to risk it.

“I’m freaked out and I want to walk but I don’t,” she said. “Someone might grab me and hold me hostage.”

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.