Witness blames lawmen in death

A Johnston sheriff's deputy fatally shot a man Saturday night near Kenly, officials confirmed Sunday.

Tammy Amaon, spokeswoman for the Johnston County Sheriff's Office, said Reginald Lee Witcher was killed after he shot at the deputies and they returned fire.

A witness tells a different story about Witcher's death. Witcher, who was called Reggie by friends and family members, turned 54 on Thursday.

Thomas Wayne Mooney, Witcher's longtime friend and neighbor, said he and his wife, Jenny, were at Witcher's house Saturday at 2349 Glendale Road for a small, joint birthday party for Witcher and his wife, Belinda, whose birthday was Nov. 17.

Paramedics were called to the house after Mooney's wife fell down hard on the front steps and wasn't responsive, Mooney said. Sheriff's deputies showed up about five minutes after the paramedics left to take her to the hospital, he said.

Mooney said he was on his way home to get his phone to check on his wife and had just walked out the front door when the deputies arrived. He said the deputies saw Witcher and "were screaming at Reggie to drop the weapon, but they never gave him a chance."

The deputies shot Witcher through the plate glass window of his front door, Mooney said. One of Witcher's dogs, a Dalmation named Pepper, also was killed, found dead on the couch afterward.

"He was not even looking at them," Mooney said. "He was right by his couch. I think he was taking the shotgun up on account of the ambulance and the red lights and blue lights. I think he was taking it upstairs to just kind of put it away. I don't think the ... gun was even loaded."

The official account differs from Mooney's recollection of the incident.

Amaon said Sunday that the deputies were called to the house just after 9 p.m. Saturday by the emergency medical services crew on the scene.

She said Witcher, who was "upset and irate," pulled out a shotgun and opened fire on the deputies. The deputies -- Deputy Sgt. J.K. Garner and Deputy A.J. Case -- returned fire, and Witcher was killed.

Garner sustained injuries that were not life-threatening and was treated at the scene for a cut on his face. Amaon said he was injured when Witcher fired at them and broke the glass pane in the front door.

Both Garner and Case were placed on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation -- standard procedure when officers use deadly force.

Shooting disputed

Connie Mulgrew, Witcher's sister, said two of Witcher's uncles and his grandfather were all police officers. She couldn't believe that he would shoot at the deputies.

Witcher was an avid fisherman, hunter and gardener, she said, adding that he worked as a manager for a heating and air- conditioning company. Her brother also enjoyed going to a little mobile home on Emerald Isle.

Witcher had been married to Belinda Witcher for about 14 years, Mulgrew said.

The couple didn't have any children, she said, but they had a collection of pets, many of which had been orphans.

"He's just a city boy with a country life," she said.

Both Mulgrew and Mooney were frustrated by the lack of information they had received from authorities.

Mulgrew said she had trouble getting any information about the location of her brother's body.

"He had a perfect paradise for him and his wife," said John Witcher, Reggie Witcher's brother. "The whole thing, when we heard about it ... [Sunday] morning, we said, 'There's something wrong here; this doesn't even make sense.' "

John Witcher said the family planned to hire its own investigator to look into the shooting.

"We want to find out why people shot Reggie in his house," he said. "What were they thinking? There's other ways of getting people out of the house, and it doesn't have to be by killing them, especially when you're on your own land and your own house."

"This was totally uncalled for," Mooney said. "This is not exactly how you would think that your sheriff's department looks out for you."