Deputy and suspect killed, another deputy wounded

Woman's murder also linked to suspect
April 8, 2009 9:28:50 AM PDT
A Lenoir County sheriff's detective and a suspect were killed in a Tuesday evening shootout that injured a second deputy. It happened just before 10 p.m. when Lenoir County sheriff's detectives responded to a 911 call about a man firing shots in a wooded area. The deputies arrived at the scene near Grifton, N.C., which is about 75 miles southeast of Raleigh.

At the scene, officers found an abandoned vehicle registered to a Craven County woman.

Authorities say the suspect, who the sheriff's office identified as 43-year-old Clarence Douglas Phillips, began shooting at the deputies, forcing them to take cover. After warning the suspect to surrender several times, deputies say Phillips ignored the officers and continued to fire his gun.

While on the scene, deputies learned that the body of 49-year-old Cynthia Tillett Knighten was found in Craven County, and Phillips may have been involved in that murder. Deputies determined the car at the scene also belonged to her.

Although investigators are not certain how Knighten died, they said she had a lot of head trauma and they believe she may have been shot. There are no other suspects at this time.

Authorities say they later learned Phillips killed Knighten, who was his girlfriend. She was found in her New Bern home. Apparently the couple had a history of domestic issues.

More deputies were called to the Grifton scene to assist and the Highway Patrol assisted with its helicopter.

From the air, they were able to pinpoint Phillip's exact location on the ground. Deputies then moved closer to that location. As they approached Phillips, more gunshots were exchanged and the deputies shot him.

During the exchange, Detective Allen Pearson was shot and he died at a local hospital. A second deputy, Detective Ryan Dawson, was shot in the neck area and transported to Pitt Memorial Hospital. He is in critical condition.

Phillips was transported to Lenoir Memorial Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. According to the Craven County Sheriff's Office, he died from his injuries Wednesday morning.

The SBI is assisting in the investigation.


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