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After 3 days, manhunt ends for suspect accused of shooting Lenoir County deputy

After a multi-day manhunt for the man accused of shooting a Lenoir County deputy and another man, the suspect is now in custody of the Lenoir County Sheriff's Department.

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Jessica Patrick
Heather Leah WRAL multiplatform producers
KINSTON, N.C. — After a multi-day manhunt for the man accused of shooting a Lenoir County deputy and another man, the suspect is now in custody of the Lenoir County Sheriff's Department.

The manhunt began Thursday night after a deputy was shot in the neck during a domestic call. Hours later, early Friday morning, the suspect was accused of shooting a second man.

The manhunt for Robert Lee Strother ended at 8:34 p.m. on Saturday at a home on Banks School Road.

A caller to 911 at 8:19 p.m. identified a man fitting the description of Strother was on the porch of the residence. Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram called for two armored vehicles to go to the address.

When the armored vehicles approached, Strother was instructed to surrender to the authorities. A gunfight ensued between Strother and law enforcement officers, and he was shot several times. No law enforcement officers were struck by gunfire.

Strother was treated at a local hospital and released on Sunday. He made his initial court appearance on Monday and was being held at the Lenoir County jail under $5 million bond.

Because the manhunt ended in an officer-involved shooting, the State Bureau of Investigation was called in to conduct an investigation.

Strother faces two counts of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict deadly injury, assault with deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon, felony larceny, felony possession of stolen goods, felony possession of a firearm by a felon, discharging a weapon in an occupied dwelling and misdemeanor resisting arrest and obstructing or delaying law enforcement.

He also faces federal charges of carjacking, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

The FBI, North Carolina State Highway Patrol and other local law enforcement agencies joined the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office in the search for 30-year-old Strother over the past few days.

Over more than 24 hours, helicopters, drones and officers on foot and in vehicles patrolled a perimeter in the area between Lang Skinner Road and Kennedy Home Road.

According to Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram, Strother shot a man Friday morning around 6:45 a.m. in the Kennedy Home Road area and stole his red 2003 Dodge Dakota pickup truck with North Carolina license plate BAP-2430. The man was in critical condition, the sheriff said, and that truck was later located.

“(Strother) is armed and extremely dangerous,” Ingram said.

According to authorities, Strother shot Steven Key, 30, a K-9 officer with the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office, Thursday before 9 p.m. at a home at 2544 Lang Skinner Road.

Authorities said Strother was standing in the front yard of the home with his back toward the street when Key arrived.

When Key spoke to Strother, officials said he turned around with an assault-type rifle and shot at the deputy, hitting him in the neck. Key crouched behind his car and called for assistance, and Strother fled the scene.

Residents were encouraged to stay away from the area until Strother has been apprehended.

“If residents want to return now, they are returning at their own risk,” Ingram said. “(Strother) has shown what he will do, as evidenced by his actions this morning. He is still armed and extremely dangerous.”

Ingram said they initially thought Strother was barricaded inside the home, but a subsequent search revealed the house was empty. Still, authorities said they believe he is still in the area, which is contained.

“We think we have him contained,” the sheriff said. “As daylight comes on, we’ll have a better idea.”

Key was taken to UNC Lenoir Health Care in Kinston. He was released sometime after midnight. Now, he is home and recovering well, according to LCSO Maj. Ryan Dawson.

The second shooting victim, however, is in critical condition, according to Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram.


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