North Carolina

Deputy in eastern NC thought he saw a gun, fired into car, sheriff’s office says

Officers arrested Walter Ray Thompson in connection with the incident Thursday night.
Officers arrested Walter Ray Thompson in connection with the incident Thursday night. Pender County Sheriff's Office

A Pender County Sheriff’s deputy thought he saw a passenger in a car point a gun at him, so he opened fire on the car Thursday at about 10 p.m., according to the Pender County Sheriff’s Office and the officer’s attorney.

The deputy, a three-year veteran with the sheriff’s office on the vice and narcotics unit, fired two shots into the car, attorney Barry Henline told McClatchy. No one was injured, he said.

Henline said two people were in a parked car in the Maple Hill community, a rural area between Wilmington and Jacksonville, North Carolina. He said the unnamed deputy was working on “crime abatement” in the area when he came across the car.

“As the deputies approached the vehicle to speak with the occupants, the driver of the vehicle exited and refused to speak with deputies. Deputies approached the remaining occupant of the vehicle and a deputy observed what he believed to be a handgun in the vehicle occupant’s hand,” Pender County Capt. James Rowell said in a press release.

When the passenger pointed something at the deputy from inside the car, the officer “believed it was a gun,” Henline said by phone Friday. The officer fired two shots into the vehicle, the attorney said. Both rounds hit the vehicle but no one was hurt, he said.

Rowell explained what happened this way: “The deputy ordered the occupant to drop the firearm and raise his hands, the vehicle occupant was non-compliant and raised what the officer believed to be a firearm toward the officer. At that time, shots were fired by one of the deputies on scene.”

The lawyer would not say if there was a gun found in the car, saying that he did not want to hurt the ongoing investigation by releasing that detail. The sheriff’s office also did not confirm if the man had a weapon.

Rowell identified the passenger as 53-year-old New Bern resident Walter Ray Thompson. Deputies arrested Thompson on one charge of resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer. Rowell said Thompson initially gave a false first name to deputies.

He was taken to Pender County jail and is being held on a $2,000 bond. “Additional charges are pending,” Rowell said in the release.

“This turned out a lot better than a lot of these situations,” Henline, the attorney, said, noting no one was hurt or killed in the incident.

He said the passenger was taken into custody on “an order for arrest,” which Hinton said could be on a warrant for outstanding charges or not appearing in court.

Henton said he went to the scene Thursday night to represent the officer through his work with the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association.

The officer is on leave pending an investigation into the incident, according to Rowell.