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SBI investigating two officer-involved shootouts

Posted September 3, 2009

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— The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating after Durham authorities were involved in two shootouts within a 24-hour time frame.

Tuesday night, Elliott Josiah Pierce, 26, of Durham, shot at officers after a traffic stop on Dearborn Drive and Ader Street, authorities said. Officers returned fire, hitting Pierce in the abdomen and leg. The officers were not injured.

Wednesday night, vice-squad officer Morial S. Whitaker got into a shoot out with drug suspect Olvin Alexander Aranda Hernandez outside a Durham Cracker Barrel restaurant on Hillsborough Road, authorities said.

Lt. Stan Harris, of the Durham County Sheriff's Office, said that incident began as narcotics officers followed three suspects to the restaurant’s parking lot.

SBI investigating two officer-involved shootouts SBI investigates officer-invovled shootings

Harris said the officers were wearing vests identifying that they worked for the sheriff's office. They also told the suspects they were with law enforcement.

"He (Hernandez) didn't want to do what they asked him to do, step out of the car and put your hands up. The subject just started shooting,” Harris said.

Harris said a bullet fired by Hernandez, 24, of 1506 Bungalow Ave., struck officer Whitaker in the leg.

Authorities are still trying to determine how many officers fired back hitting Hernandez.

Whitaker and Hernandez were treated and released from Duke University Hospital.

"Thank God he (Whitaker) is OK,” Harris said.

Hernandez and two other suspects, Victor Oscar Olguin-Bravo, 21, of 917 Virgie St., and Richanel Sala Sala, 19, of 2816 Ross Road Apt. 10-G, face drug trafficking charges. Authorities said they found 614 grams of cocaine on the men.

"It's roughly over half a kilo, which is over a pound of powdered cocaine,” Harris said.

Hernandez is also expected to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by convicted felon, assault on a government official by firearm and armed in the terror of the public for firing a gun in the restaurant's parking lot.

"The job is inherently dangerous. Anytime you are dealing with the unknown, and you are dealing with suspects, and you don't know what is in that car when you stop it. That is why we train the way we do. We train to expect the unexpected,” Harris said.

Pierce, the suspect in Tuesday night’s shootout, was being treated for his injuries at Duke University Hospital.

He faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Police found the car Pierce was riding inside, a Nissan Altima, abandoned a short distance away, but were still searching for the driver and a second passenger.

As is standard procedure when a law enforcement officer fires a weapon, the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave with pay and the SBI will investigate.

Anyone with information on either incident is asked to call 919-560-4440, ext. 29350 or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.


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