Orange County

Orange County deputy cleared in fatal shooting of Efland man

District Attorney Jim Woodall issued a report Tuesday, July 11, 2017, that concluded an investigation into an Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy-involved shooting in February. The investigation found that deputies acted lawfully when they shot and killed Keo Crockett at his Efland home.
District Attorney Jim Woodall issued a report Tuesday, July 11, 2017, that concluded an investigation into an Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy-involved shooting in February. The investigation found that deputies acted lawfully when they shot and killed Keo Crockett at his Efland home. cseward@newsobserver.com

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that deputies acted lawfully when they shot and killed an armed man in February at his Efland home.

Keo Crockett, 46, was killed Feb. 18 when Orange County sheriff’s deputies went to his home at 306 Virginia Lee Lane on a tip from Mebane police.

The N.C. Bureau of Investigation worked with the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office on the investigation – standard procedure in police-involved shootings. DA Jim Woodall said he also consulted with his senior prosecutors, other prosecutors and retired district attorneys about the case.

The investigation found that Deputy Bryan Ashley, who fired the fatal shots, reasonably feared for his life and acted lawfully in killing Crockett.

“It is always tragic for all involved when law enforcement officers must use deadly force to protect themselves or the public,” Woodall said in a statement. “This incident underscores the potential danger faced by law enforcement officers each day.”

Crockett’s death “is a tragic event,” he said. “He had family and many friends who will forever be affected by his loss.”

The incident began when Mebane police asked the Sheriff’s Office to help find Crockett, because he was wanted in connection with an earlier assault on two people during a home invasion in Mebane.

The deputies were told Crockett might be at his home in Efland and should be considered armed and dangerous based on witness accounts that he had held a gun to one person’s head during the home invasion and attempted to fire the weapon.

The deputies parked away from Crockett’s home and approached on foot, unplugging an outdoor light shining on the porch, because they were concerned Crockett was armed inside the home, the report states.

They knocked on the door and a window but did not announce themselves. The report notes they “reasonably believed exigent circumstances existed and that they might be fired upon from inside the residence.”

When Crockett abruptly exited the home and pointed a handgun at Ashley, he fired four shots from his Sheriff’s Office-issued AR-15 rifle, hitting Crockett in the abdomen, the report states. Deputy Tyler Chelenza fired one round from his service handgun but did not hit Crockett, it states.

The release did not address issues relating to tactics or whether deputies followed correct law enforcement procedures or Sheriff’s Office directives. It noted that Orange County deputies are not issued body-worn cameras, and no video or audio recordings were available.

Woodall said the District Attorney’s Office, in officer-involved shooting cases, generally reviews the investigative file to decide whether charges are warranted. Law-enforcement officers do not forfeit their individual right to self-defense against “death or great bodily harm,” he said.

“If no criminal charges are filed, that does not mean the District Attorney’s Office believes the matter was in all respects handled appropriately from an administrative or tactical viewpoint,” Woodall said. “It is simply a determination that there is not a reasonable likelihood of proving criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously to a jury.”

Additional remedies could be pursued by the Sheriff’s Office or through a civil lawsuit, he noted.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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