Officials say the man was trying to escape when guards opened fire.
Adelino Najera was first convicted in Stokes County for killing a woman. That was in 2001.
Najera was shot and killed Tuesday by a prison watch tower guard.
"I don't know if he was on a break or what but he made it outside the perimeter," Keith Acree, N.C. Corrections, said.
Najera was shot multiple times in the back.
He was working at a paint plant next to Johnston Correctional. Then he scaled two barbed wire fences.
Prison officials say he ignored their commands to stop. When he reached the final fence, the guard opened fire.
"State law allows our officers to use deadly force with escaped inmates," Acree said.
The SBI arrived shortly after to make sure the guard followed proper procedure.
Najera was scheduled to be released in June and then deported in June to his native country, Honduras.
Why he chose to run with so little time left to serve is unclear, but prison officials standby the guard's decision not to allow him to escape.
"All things considered, he [prison guard] did was he was trained to do," Acree said.
The guard will be placed on administrative duty, and he will not be allowed to work with inmates until the SBI completes its investigation.