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Chief: Officer previously located rifle used by man during Fayetteville standoff

Posted March 22

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— A Fayetteville police officer left a rifle accessible to a robbery suspect who was killed last week after an eight-hour standoff with police, Police Chief Anthony Kelly said Wednesday.

The officer, whose name hasn’t been released, has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation, Kelly said.

Authorities were initially called to an apartment in the 100 block of Sycamore Court last Thursday morning after Patrick Earl Gatson, 32, barricaded himself inside an apartment and refused to come out. Authorities said Gatson had active warrants for common law robbery and felony possession of stolen goods. He told police that he did not want to return to jail.

Kelly said that a member of the emergency response team assisting in a search of the apartment building found a rifle in a unit adjacent to the one Gatson was in. Kelly said the rifle belonged to the tenants who lived in the apartment on Sycamore Court.

The officer determined the rifle was safe because it didn’t have bullets inside, placed it on a bed and continued searching for Gatson.

Gatson, who crawled through the attic to access all four units in the building, was able to twice gain access to the apartment where the rifle was located and used it to pursue an officer outside the room, Kelly said.

That officer retreated, and Gatson was eventually located in a closet with a rifle, magazine and scope in hand.

“If he hadn’t found that weapon, he wouldn’t have been able to chase those officers with that particular rifle,” Kelly said. “If Mr. Gatson hadn’t obtained the weapon, the officers wouldn’t have had to use deadly force.”

The Fayetteville Police Department has notified the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, Gatson’s family and the State Bureau of Investigation of the development.

Ideally, Kelly said, the rifle should have been secured after it was located, and other officers on the scene should have been told it was found. The three officers who fired at Gatson were not aware that the gun had been cleared, Kelly said.

“The officers that encountered Mr. Gatson with deadly force were not aware that on officer found and cleared that weapon,” Kelly said.

The three officers who fired the shots are also on administrative leave.

“We would like to continue to pray for all those involved in the situation and continue to be transparent in the situation,” Kelly said.

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  • Jeff Freuler Mar 23, 10:59 a.m.
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    I agree. If the weapon was in another apartment then there wasn't a need to take it.

    The chief is grand standing and nothing else.

  • Stacie Hagwood Mar 23, 7:32 a.m.
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    Now THAT is an honest mistake. Why would you take it anywhere when it is in someone else's apartment? Unless the term "apartment" is actually a room in a rooming house. Still. It sounds like an honest mistake and the only person responsible here is Mr. Gatson.