Edgecombe County sheriff says mental illness played role in stabbing of deputy, fatal shooting

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Friday, October 15, 2021
Man stabbed deputy before being shot, killed in Edgecombe County
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"My deputies had no time to react; three seconds and he was stabbed," the sheriff said.

TARBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Edgecombe County sheriff blamed mental illness for a stabbing and fatal shooting that happened Thursday, and he called for more statewide support systems to address the issue.

Sheriff Cleveland Atkinson spoke Friday morning, nearly 24 hours after one of his deputies was stabbed twice in the back with what Atkinson called a "large tactical-style pocket knife."

It happened at a home on McNair Road just outside of Tarboro. Atkinson said his deputies had been called to the home multiple times in the past; this time they were told a man with a knife was threatening a woman at the home.

Just seconds after getting to the scene in the 4300 block of McNair Road just after 2 p.m., deputies were forced to react.

"My deputies had no time to react; three seconds and he was stabbed," Atkinson said.

According to Atkinson, the 32-year-old man who had just stabbed one deputy started running at a second. That's when the deputy opened fire and killed the man.

It started when a woman at the home had called for help, saying her nephew was coming at her with a knife.

When two deputies arrived, they spoke with the woman in the front yard. She led them to the front door of the residence and as soon as she opened the door, the knife-wielding man charged out the door. As the attacker began charging at the second, a third deputy who had just arrived and was walking up to the house.

Deputies fired their weapons, killing the suspect. The whole thing took less than 10 seconds, the sheriff said.

Forestry Officers who heard the call on the radio responded quickly to the scene and immediately gave first aid to the injured deputy, Atkinson said.

"We are eternally grateful for their quick action, care, and compassion," Atkinson said. "Edgecombe EMS arrived and provided care and transported the wounded Corporal to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville where he was treated and released to recover at home."

Atkinson said all three deputies at the scene were wearing body cameras and they had turned all the footage over to the State Bureau of Investigation, which is now in charge of the case.

Atkinson said the names of the deputies involved have not been released on the advice of District Attorney Robert Evans. He said the names will be released "as soon as we are allowed to."

Atkinson then said the state needed to do more to create systems to help citizens with mental illness.

"To our local and our state leaders...law enforcement and families, we need help. We need long-term facilities. Our officers are doing more today than ever dealing with people suffering from mental illness. It's in my family; it's in yours," Atkinson said.

Atkinson said that in the past, deputies had also been called out to another address for the suspect.

"We would like to thank Tarboro Police Department, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, NC Forestry Service, DMV License and Theft, Edgecombe County EMS, Vidant Medical Center, Nash County Sheriff's Office, Rocky Mount Police Department," the sheriff's office said Friday in a news release. "All 99 of NC sheriffs who reached out with a call or text to Sheriff Atkinson, and anyone we may have overlooked. Your support is very much appreciated."

Atkinson asked for prayers for law officers as well as the family of the man who was shot and killed.