Local News

Wanted man took probation officer hostage before Durham shootout

Posted January 21, 2011

— A Durham man who was killed Thursday night in a shootout with law enforcement took a probation officer hostage before exchanging fire with officers, according to a search warrant released Friday.

Members of the U.S. Marshal's Service Joint Fugitive Task Force went to a home at 404 Macon St. at about 8:10 p.m. to serve warrants on Jerome Maurice Thompkins, 35, who was wanted on three counts each of first-degree sex offense involving a child, indecent liberties with a child and crime against nature.

Authorities had information that Thompkins was living at the house, and a woman who answered the door gave officers permission to search the home, police said.

Officers kill wanted man in Durham shootout Officers kill wanted man in Durham shootout

While officers were inside, Thompkins appeared with a handgun, forcing officers to retreat outside. However, Hope Nichols, a Durham County probation officer who was assisting with the case, wasn't able to get out of the house before Thompkins grabbed her, took her holstered handgun and handcuffed her, according to the search warrant.

All of the other people inside, including two children, were able to get outside, the warrant states.

Officers ordered Thompkins several times to drop his weapon and come outside. In response, he fired several shots at the officers from a bedroom window, police said.

Chapel Hill police officer Preston Oppegard, a member of the fugitive task force, fired his weapon in self-defense, killing Thompkins, police said. No one else was injured in the exchange.

A man who said he lives at the home with his girlfriend and two children said he was at work Thursday night when a relative called him and told him that he needed to go home.

"They said, 'You need to get home. They've got your house surrounded,'" said the man, who declined to give his name. "I was trying to ask questions about what's going on, and they said they had my girlfriend hostage and my children that was in the house."

The man said several shots were fired inside and outside the house, and the rear window of his car was shattered.

"I'm still trying to figure out what's going on," he said.

A neighbor who declined to give his name described the shootout as terrifying. He said he was watching television when he heard gunfire and hit the ground. Police later came to his back door and took everyone in the house and other neighbors to a safer location, he said.

The Chapel Hill Police Department is conducting an internal investigation into the incident, and the department has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to conduct a criminal investigation. Oppegard has been placed on administrative duty until both investigations are concluded, which is standard procedure.

The SBI collected shell casings, a .38-caliber handgun, a .40-caliber handgun, bullet fragments and other items from the home, according to the search warrant.


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  • USAF20YR Ret Jan 21, 2011

    Tigger above must be liked by the moderator, I can't even get a comment allowed.
    I see no race comments.

  • tgiv Jan 21, 2011

    "I see some folks are talking race on this. Well I am a white male and like it or not the majority of sex offenders and serial killers are white males. How can we be objective and discuss race here?"

    Most of the mentally challenged who drag their racial hangups into every issue have no intention or expectation of being objective. To suggest rational discussion with them is a waste of time.

  • thepeopleschamp Jan 21, 2011

    "Wow, first Florida and now Durham...I REALLY hope these warrants are being served on guilty parties." Journey985

    journ, after seeing this article your biggest concern is armed hostage taker that was wanted on several charges of child releated crimes? Not me, my concern is more with the victim and the safety of the officers who attempted to apprehend this offender.

  • clickhere Jan 21, 2011

    Give WRAL some time...They will find a way to "spin" this story around and do their best to find a way to blame some sort of wrong-doing on the parts of the officers involved. Thats WRAL's thing!

    Hate to say it, but if I was a cop and left at gunpoint without a member of the team I went in with, I'd think there would be some questions asked.

  • clickhere Jan 21, 2011

    So, am I reading this right? The CH cops brought a probation officer in with them at the invitation of the woman of the house, and left without the probation officer - she was handcuffed and her gun was taken by the perp and the cops backed out without her? Why did she have a gun? Why did the cops leave her?

  • kodac31 Jan 21, 2011

    Give WRAL some time...They will find a way to "spin" this story around and do their best to find a way to blame some sort of wrong-doing on the parts of the officers involved. Thats WRAL's thing!

  • clickhere Jan 21, 2011

    Why do the Chapel Hill Police carry guns when they don't believe anyone else should be armed?

    Nice comment. They are kinda yuppie there. (BTW, I've got a 15 yr old rabbit dog, certainly a great breed.)

  • 1 awesome Dad Jan 21, 2011

    RM24 Deserve a hole in the ground?? The buzzards got to eat too!!!

  • pdolan6 Jan 21, 2011

    Does insanity require a qualifier? Is there a type of insanity that is not part of the mental process?
    Sean kelly15 I would say it does require a qualifer because people don't know what someone is gonna do until they do it...tim mcveigh, jeff damer, this guy on macon steeet, the 9-11 hijackers. It has to be measured by some type of qualifier. To your second question, no I'm not saying there is a type of insanity that is not part of the mental process. But, mentally challenged people god be with them. When I say mentally insane I mean dangerous to society. If that guy sodomized my kids, that would be a "qualifier" in my book for some justice...midevil style.

  • Proud Black Constitutionalist Jan 21, 2011

    But then again it dont take alot of MONEY to rent a backhoe dig a hole and fill it up.

    RM24--Unfortunately, the ACLU and other alphabet soups would be crying bloody murder--no pun intended.