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Lillington Authorities Search for Three Suspects in Officer's Shooting

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LILLINGTON — An off-duty Lillington police officer has been upgraded to serious condition after being shot while trying to stop an apparent armed robbery at a convenience store. Authorities are looking for three suspects.

So far, no arrests have been made in the case, but police expect that to change soon. They say they are working some strong leads and hope to have the whole thing wrapped up by Tuesday evening.

It happened at The Pantry on Main Street just after 1:30 Monday morning.

Authorities say 22-year-old Cedric McLeod was off duty and in the store when a group of men came in, showed a gun and demanded money.

Police say what exactly went on inside the store is still sketchy, because they have not been able to talk to the officer yet. They say they will talk to him for the first time Tuesday morning.

Store employees say the robbery was fruitless.

"It usually isn't about $70 in the register. Why would someone come in a Pantry and rob the store for that amount of money?" said employee Rozetta Spears.

"Any time in a small community like this, that something like this happens, it is a shock," said Town Manager George Rose.

Rose said the young officer who started Jan. 20, had already gained a good reputation on the force.

"We will do anything we can to help him and his family to see through this," Rose said.

The State Bureau of Investigation has taken over the case which is routine any time a police officer is shot.

People atPine Forest High School, which McLeod attended, are looking for him to recover.

"I really do feel for him and his family. Like I say, I do hope he has a speedy recovery," said Janice McGhee, McLeod's former teacher.

One of McLeod's cousins says family, friends, police officers and church members have been atDuke University Medical Centerthroughout the day supporting McLeod.

It is the first time anyone can remember a police officer being shot in the line of duty in Lillington.

Whether or not the suspects knew McLeod was a policeman, assaults against officers are down.

According to theN.C. Uniform Crime Reporting Program, compared to the first three months of 1997, officer assaults were down 12 percent last year. Crimes against officers especially dropped off in rural areas.