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Recordings suggest chaotic scene at deputy-involved shooting

Posted December 2, 2008

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— Two Johnston County sheriff's deputies were responding to "an extremely intoxicated" and "belligerent crowd" the night one of them fatally shot a Kenly man at his home.

That's according to 911 calls and radio traffic in the Nov. 22 death of Reginald Lee Witcher, 54.

Citing an ongoing investigation, Johnston County authorities have declined to comment about the case and the circumstances that might have led to the shooting,

But the 10 recordings unsealed Tuesday suggest the scene was chaotic prior to and after the shooting, in which a deputy was also injured.

At 8:23 p.m., a man whom authorities identify as Wayne Mooney called 911 reporting his wife "in bad shape" in the front yard with "injuries around her throat."

"We were cooking a pig, and we were doing a little bit of drinking and some alcohol was involved," Mooney says. "And she fell about 3 feet, but I don't know exactly what happened to her."

When EMS arrived, however, paramedics were told that no one called 911, according to a conversation at 8:29 p.m. The paramedic requests for backup, saying a man has a gun, and in a later call, reports "an injured person due to an assault."

Deputy Sgt. J. K. Garner arrives at the scene at 8:56 p.m., followed by Deputy A. J. Case at 8:59 p.m.

In the final recording, Case frantically calls the dispatcher requesting a code 25 for backup after shots are fired, that Witcher has been shot in the head, has no pulse and is not breathing.

The Johnston County sheriff's office has said that when the deputies arrived, Witcher shot at them from his front door, and a deputy returned fire, killing Witcher.

Last week, a Superior Court judge sealed the calls to give investigators time to interview key witnesses in the shooting.

Witcher's family members and friends say they do not believe Witcher would have shot at an officer because he was not a violent man and believe there has to be another explanation about what happened.

Richard Hunter, an attorney for Witcher's family, said Tuesday that the family has hired its own investigators and is interviewing witnesses.

"We have assembled a team of forensic investigators which is now looking at all physical evidence and conducting witness statements in order to be all-inclusive," he said.

Both deputies are on administrative leave with pay, which is standard procedure for all officer-involved shootings.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • thepeopleschamp Dec 3, 2008

    Even IF the man did not fire the shotgun at all, I hope everyone knows that the Deputy does not have to wait to be fired on first before he shoots.

  • sales123 Dec 3, 2008

    It still seems to be many unanswered questions. Where was the empty shotgun shell found? If it is so easily determined what happen then why is everyone talking about it still. If Mr. Witcher did shoot first then why would his family spend so much money hiring a attorney and forensics team if they already know what the end result will be?

  • Centurian Dec 3, 2008

    Today's News & Observer story line reads: "Who fired first in Kenly is disputed...A shotgun shell was found. But witnesses had said the victim never fired at a deputy"

    PUHLEEEZE!!! It would be more accurate to have said: "Drunk man at party says gunman was only putting shotgun away...No excuse for fact that gun was fired"

    I am tired of the media (N&O especially) criticizing our energency responders based entirely on comments by obviously intoxicated friends of the gunman, and the fact that official information is not flowing to them until the investigation is completed. The rambling comments of a drunk are better than nothing in their estimation, I suppose.

  • workingforthosethatwont Dec 3, 2008

    How can a neighbor say 'oh he wouldn't do something like that' ....that's about the dumbest thing anyone could say. You can't possibly rule out something that someone would or wouldn't do, especially when alcohol and emotions are involved.
    A person gets agitated by others, the alcohol and the macho thing of protecting his own property...no telling what happened. But one thing is for sure, those deputies would not have been at his house if EMS or someone else hadn't called them. He pulled a gun and lost. Those deputies are not paid to take the first bullet!

  • ifcdirector Dec 3, 2008

    I don't believe these deputies were dispatched to execute this man and anyone who believes that needs their head examined. I do believe it would be super easy to determine if he fired that gun forensics wise and there would be multiple pellet hits on the car which I assume there are since one deputy was wounded by shrapnel too. If that's the case then case closed. Since when do alcohol and firearms mix anyway on even the most fundamentally basic level? Answer. Not at all. A man with a shotgun is potentially a very deadly threat and a deputy doesn't have time to ask the assailant if it's loaded with bird shot, buck shot, or worse still rifled saboted slugs. Try taking one of those through your body at close range from a shotgun and then live to tell about it. You will be lucky. When someone threatens your life you shoot to stop the attack and when they are firing a gun at you then you better make sure you get them first. It amazes me the second guessing here.

  • sayitoutloud Dec 3, 2008

    According to the story neighbors and family members say that this guy would not have shot at anyone, but Alcohol is the true liquid encouragement. There is no telling what kind of person he may have turned into when drinking. My dad was a GREAT person (would do anything for anybody) when sober. You get him drinking and he becomes a mean cuss. Some people are just like that.

  • slappyh99 Dec 2, 2008

    EMS said the female was injured from a possible assault. Hopefully that is being investigated. Could she have been assaulted by her drunken husband or the drunken idiot that shot at the Deputies? Why did he get the gun out in the first place? With all those drunks, someone would have probably gotten shot there that night even if EMS and JCSO had not been called. Hopefully WRAL will look into the criminal histories (if any) of everyone at the house including the man that shot at the Deputies. If they look hard enough I have a feeling they will probably find something. I know one of the Deputies involved and all I can say is GOOD JOB guys. Good training saves lives, yours. They have both been through a traumatic situation and should not be crucified here for doing their job and doing it well. The last thing any LEO wants to do is to have to shoot someone. But as in this case they are not usually given a choice.

  • wolf80 Dec 2, 2008

    Where is WRAL'S spin in support of the deputies now that the tapes show a drunken mess, a man with a gun, an now more then likely a justified police shooting. WHY did they have to stir up a hornets nest to start with, not knowing any fact other then those supplied by bias drunken supposed witnesses.

  • thought Dec 2, 2008

    Problem is there is no respect for anyone. Too much CSI - people want to see all the "evidence" up front and think the crime will be solved in one hour. They think the clues are laying right in front of the officers.
    I took a citizen academy thru a local sheriff's department- and even though I knew a lot about law enforcement- I really didn't. Every one should go to the local police and see what really goes on. You would be amazed. These peopel who always blame the police - need to wake up. Sadly there are the few who make all officers look bad - it is like every profession - you always have a few bad ones. Every situation is different and needs to be viewed that way.

  • COPs eye Dec 2, 2008

    I'm glad to c the sea of nay sayers has all but vanished.I know both officers well and will be happy to c them return to duty.Just for the people that like to jump on the Law Enforcement Bash wagon...told u sooooooooooooo.I am glad that these deputies are receiving the support they should have been getting from the start, but the naysayers always thing we are covering things up, gilty conscious creates a guilty thoughts.