Local News

Inmate Killed After Courthouse Struggle

Posted July 12, 2006

— An inmate who grabbed a sheriff's deputy's gun inside a Northampton County courtroom and shot the officer was killed Wednesday during a struggle with other officers.

Willie Forrest

, who had a history of violence in courtrooms, grabbed Department of Correction Officer Chris Hicks' weapon and shot him in the arm at about 9:20 a.m., said Karen Cole, a dispatcher with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office.

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    Forest then struggled with a second officer and fired a second shot into the air. A third deputy shot Forest in the stomach. He died en route to an area hospital, Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent said.

    Forrest, 37, was serving 56 years in prison for an attempted murder conviction in 2003. A judge had not refused a motion for Forrest to fire his attorney, and he was being transferred from Jackson to Raleigh's Central Prison at the time of the shooting.

    Authorities said Forrest, who was fully restrained, somehow took the officer's gun and shot the officer in the shoulder. In a struggle with a second officer, Forrest fired another shot into the air, said Jane Carroll with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office. A total of six shots were fired, officials said.

    "He was almost like a wild animal," said Forrest's attorney, Sam Dixon. "I really have never seen anything like it in my life."

    Hicks was treated at an area hospital and later released.

    The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting, said Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice.

    Forrest Had Past History Of Courtroom Violence

    According to the state Department of Correction, Forrest was being held in Central Prison, a maximum-security facility, and had no record of escape. He was convicted in Wake, Nash and Harnett counties on numerous charges, including attempted murder, kidnapping, assault on an officer and habitual assault in 2003. ()

    He had several other past convictions for assault and other crimes, including armed robbery, embezzlement and receiving stolen goods.

    After his conviction for kidnapping, Forrest attacked his lawyer in a Wake County courtroom. Five deputies were needed to pull Forrest off of attorney George Hughes, who suffered a skull fracture, a broken right cheekbone and bruises around his left eye. Hughes didn't require surgery and was able to return to work the next week.

    "As soon as the verdict was announced -- the best description: he took me out," Hughes told WRAL on Wednesday.

    "I probably wouldn't be surprised at anything Willie did in court, in jail, out of jail," Hughes added.

    Forrest had been on trial for charges related to an Oct. 9, 2002, incident in which he allegedly held his aunt at knifepoint, said Assistant District Attorney Ned Mangum.

    In addition to first-degree kidnapping, Forrest also was charged with two other felonies -- assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury with intent to kill and assault on a law enforcement officer inflicting serious injury.

    The jury convicted him of kidnapping and two lesser assault charges.

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