Felon who shot Lenoir County deputy, another man sentenced to 60 years: 'A one-man crime spree'

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Monday, May 6, 2024
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina man who shot a deputy and then led law enforcement on a multi-day manhunt was sentenced Monday to 720 months in prison.

Robert Strother pled guilty on Oct. 16 to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carjacking, and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

"Robert Strother was a one-man crime spree," U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said. "Shooting a Lenoir County deputy in the neck with an assault rifle, leading law enforcement on a multi-day manhunt, and carjacking a neighbor at gunpoint before shooting him."

More than 26 agencies were involved in the search for Strother, including Kinston Police, the FBI, SBI and U.S. marshals.

The disturbing chain of events began on Nov. 19, 2020. Strother, 34, was standing in the driveway of a home in La Grange when Lenoir County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a call of a woman being held against her will.

A two-day manhunt has come to an end after authorities said a man accused of shooting a Lenoir County deputy and wounding another was taken into custody.

As Deputy Steven Key got out of his patrol vehicle and approached the home, Strother, who was wearing a tactical vest, reached into a parked vehicle, grabbed an "AR-style rifle" and fired a round at Key, striking him in the neck. The bullet then traveled through the deputy and into a residence through a bedroom where a child was sleeping, through the living room and into a pantry, court records showed. Strother then fled on foot and a multi-day, multi-agency manhunt began.

The next morning, deputies searching for Strother heard multiple gunshots fired in the same neighborhood and Lenoir County dispatchers got a 911 call saying that a man had been shot outside a home and that his truck had been stolen.

The victim later told investigators that Strother rushed out of the woods with a rifle, demanded his truck, and shot him multiple times in the abdomen and hand. After the shooting, deputies found a tactical vest similar to what Strother had been seen wearing when he shot the deputy. The vest contained Strother's identification card from the Case Turkey Plant and three AR-style thirty-round magazines.

Two days into the search, a 911 caller reported that Strother had been seen with a firearm in the yard of a Kinston home. Law officers arrived and saw Strother armed with a rifle as he tried to run away. Court documents said Strother turned and raised the rifle toward officers, who fired several rounds at him, striking Strother and causing him to drop the rifle.

He was finally taken into custody but Strother wasn't done yet. He tried to head-butt an EMS worker while receiving treatment for his wounds. At the scene, investigators found Strother's prison ID card and a DPMS caliber 7.62X39MM, model A-15 semiautomatic rifle with a loaded round, a loaded magazine with 14 rounds and the safety switch set to fire.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation later confirmed that the shell casings from the shootings of the deputy and the other man matched Strother's rifle. At the time of these shootings, Strother was on post-release supervision in North Carolina for a 2014 conviction for felony assault on a law enforcement officer.

"I personally met with the victims in this case and know the toll it has taken on them and their families," Easley said. "They are remarkable people who are lucky to be alive. We won't tolerate violent carjacking or attacks on law enforcement in Eastern North Carolina. These cases will always be among our highest priorities - our cops and our communities deserve no less."