Hero Carthage police officer leaving force

Officer Justin Garner
February 22, 2001 9:00:00 PM PST
Carthage Police Sgt. Justin Garner -- known for single handedly stopping the Carthage nursing home massacre -- wore his police officer's uniform for the last time Monday. Garner announced he was leaving the Carthage Police Department earlier this month to begin training at the N.C. State Highway Patrol Training Academy in Wilson.

The hero police officer met with town commissioners this week to shake their hands and bid them farewell. The department will be retiring his shield.

On March 29, 2009, Garner responded to a 911 call about a gunman walking into Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation Center and opening fire on residents and employees.

Garner said he thought the initial call was a misunderstanding, but realized something was wrong after noticing cars in the parking lot riddled with bullets.

He went into the building without backup to face the gunman, Robert Kenneth Stewart, in a hallway gun battle.

"When I went in, like you said, there were doors, hallways, there were rooms everywhere. I didn't know where he was at," Garner told ABC11 in April 2009. "It was very scary --very scary."

Garner was shot in the leg, but managed to shoot Stewart -- who was believed to be there looking for his estranged wife who worked at the facility -- in the chest, ending the rampage.

Eight people, seven elderly patients and a male nurse, were killed during the incident.

Garner and his family say they will continue to live in Robbins until he finishes the academy and is sworn in as a patrol officer. He will be based at one of the eight patrol stations in the state.

In the meantime, Garner says he will return to Carthage in the fall as a witness in Stewart's capital trial on eight counts of first-degree murder.

The Town of Carthage is about 60 miles south of Raleigh.

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