Local News

Moore County Deputy Will Not Face Charges In Shooting Of Fort Bragg Soldiers

Posted February 26, 2002

— State and local authorities are investigating a shooting involving a Moore County sheriff's deputy that left one Fort Bragg soldier dead and another in serious condition.

First Lt. Tallas Tomeny was killed and Sgt. Stephen Phelps was injured by Moore County Sheriff's Deputy Randall Butler during a traffic stop near Robbins Saturday afternoon.

Phelps was evacuated to First Health of the Carolinas in Pinehurst where he is listed in fair condition.

Army officials called the incident "an unfortunate case of mistaken identity and a breakdown in communications between the individuals involved." The District Attorney's office issued a statement Monday in Moore County, clearing Butler.

The soldiers were involved in a Special Forces training mission called

"Robin Sage"

which usually includes civilians and local law enforcement.

Both soldiers were riding in a pickup truck and dressed in civilian clothing when Butler pulled them over on a rural road. A civilian was driving the truck.

According to the State Bureau of Investigation, Butler believed his life was in danger because the soldiers reached for a gun and behaved in a suspicious manner.

The deputy killed one soldier and wounded the other when they tried to disarm him. According to officials, the soldiers thought the deputy was taking part in the training exercise.

WRAL Military Consultant General Robert Springer said he expects big changes in protocol.

"I'm certain actions will be taken to prevent this in the future. Clearly, it's a tragic, tragic error," Springer said.

The Moore County Sheriff's Office was told a training exercise was underway, said Special Operations spokesman Major Gary Kolb. But he said the Army did not coordinate specifically with the sheriff's office about Saturday's training exercises and Butler was likely unaware of it.

Deputy Butler is expected to return to work on Wednesday.

The incident is being investigated by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Army Criminal Investigation Division, the Moore County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Robin Sage is the 19-day final exam of the Special Forces Qualification Course. It tests skills in survival, tactics and dealing with people, as well as judgment, decision-making and ethics.

Robin Sage has been conducted in central North Carolina since the mid-1950s without incident, according to a release from the Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

,

Kamal Wallace

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