Deputy shooting ruled justified

March 5, 2009 11:04:39 AM PST
A report by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has found that the fatal shooting of a Kenly man by a Johnson County deputy was legally justified.Reginald Lee Witcher, 54, was shot three times by Sgt. Joel Keith Garner at his home on November 22.

Emergency workers say they got a call that someone was hurt at the home on Glendale Road, but when they arrived, they found a intoxicated and belligerent crowd at the house.

Someone inside yelled that everyone was okay and that they didn't call for assistance - even though EMS workers could clearly see a woman lying on the ground. That's when they called the Sheriff's Office for backup.

Deputies say Witcher was combative when they arrived and went inside the house and then came to the door with a shotgun.

In a news release sent to the media, District Attorney Susan Doyle says deputies warned Witcher to put the gun down. Witcher turned and went back inside the house, and when deputies followed him, they say he pointed the gun towards the door and fired.

Glass from a storm door shattered and covered deputies who were sheltered by the walls around the door. Doyle says Garner fired into the house eight times, hitting Witcher three times. Witcher died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Witcher's family has challenged the officer's version of events, and said they didn't believe he would shoot at a deputy, but Doyle says the shotgun found under Witcher's body had been fired. It was loaded with buckshot, and there was another unfired round in the gun.

An autopsy also found that Witcher's blood alcohol content was 4 times the legal limit to drive.

Doyle said Garner's "use of deadly force was both reasonable and warranted. As a result, no criminal charges will be filed related to this incident."


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