Local News

Fatal Shooting of Dunn Teen Ruled Justified

Posted December 29, 2006 11:57 a.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2006 8:52 p.m. EST

— Authorities on Friday ruled that Dunn police were justified in fatally shooting a teen while trying to serve arrest warrants on him.

Officers shot Matthew Leon Burris, 19, seven times on Aug. 17 as they tried to arrest him in connection with the shooting of a 17-year-old, authorities said.

District Attorney Tom Lock, who oversees Harnett County, issued a report Friday saying he reviewed a State Bureau of Investigation report on the shooting and deemed the action justified.

The incident prompted an outcry from Dunn's minority community. Many residents maintained police shot an unarmed teen.

Dunn Police Chief B.P. Jones refused to name the officers involved, saying he feared for their safety, and the police department heightened security for weeks after the shooting.

Lock's report identified the officers as Regina Autry, Scott Epperson and David Register. Capt. Tony Strickland and officers Dallas Autry and Kirk Whittenton also were at the scene during the shooting, the report said.

Police were responding to a tip that Burris was in a house at 601 N. Magnolia Ave. The teen was wanted on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling and carrying a concealed weapon, authorities said.

After Regina Autry entered the house, which was owned by Ruth Watson, who isn't related to Burris, she saw Burris reach for the front of his pants and try to close himself into a bedroom, the report said. Autry tried to push her way into the bedroom and saw the butt of a handgun protruding from Burris' pants, the report said.

Autry and Burris struggled in the bedroom, and Epperson, who was behind Autry, and Register, who was looking through a window said they saw Burris pull a gun from his pants, the report said. Epperson and Register fired their weapons, killing Burris.

A .38-caliber revolver was recovered from the living room floor of the house, where Burris collapsed after being shot, the report said. The gun was matched to the weapon used in an earlier shooting, the report said.

An autopsy determined that Burris had been shot four times in his torso and three times in his arms and right thigh. Two of the bullets recovered from his torso were matched to Epperson's 9 mm handgun, and a third was matched to Register's 9mm rifle, the report said.

"Officers must make split-second decisions regarding their use of force," Lock wrote in the report. "Under the circumstances observed by Officers Epperson and Register in this case, their use of deadly force was both reasonable and warranted."