Authorities identify man shot, killed in confrontation with Rowan County deputy

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — Deputies have identified a man who they said confronted a Rowan County’s sheriff’s deputy with a knife, before the deputy shot and killed him on Thursday evening.

It happened along Rock Spring Drive off Woodleaf Road near Salisbury. Deputies said that just after 8:30 p.m., they responded to a 911 call about a single-car crash into a tree. The caller said someone was possibly hurt.

Investigators said fire and EMS crews responded and let State Highway Patrol know, as they would for any crash.

Crews arrived at about 8:50 p.m. and reported that a man armed with a knife was confronting them, deputies said. That was when first responders asked for Rowan County sheriff’s deputies to help.

Seven minutes later, a deputy arrived. He was also confronted by the man, who was still armed with a knife, according to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

RSCO said the deputy shot the man, later identified as Steven Ray Johnson, 46. Johnson died from his injuries, deputies said.

“We heard about four to five gunshots, but we hear that all the time, but something was different with this one. It was a different sound. It wasn’t a target shooting,” neighbor Debbie Bell said.

The sheriff’s office said it had not previously interacted with Johnson, who was a resident of Charlotte and Salisbury.

Deputies said the incident was captured on the involved deputy’s body camera. After an initial review, investigators said the shooting was justified.

“A preliminary review by the RCSO shows that the shooting was justified and that the deputy was acting in accordance with his use of force training and within the laws of the state of North Carolina,” RCSO said in a news release.

Deputies said RCSO contacted the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to look into the case. The deputy has been put on administrative duties pending an internal investigation, authorities said.

Bell said she wants to know more about what led to the gunfire and what exactly deputies did to try to get Johnson under control.

“I think there could’ve been other means of restraining this individual,” Bell said. “I just don’t see how that would be justified. I want to learn why did that have to happen and what can we do to change that.”

According to investigators, Johnson was previously convicted in Mecklenburg County for felony death by vehicle. He was convicted in October 2013 and was sentenced to eight years and three months in prison, deputies said. He was released in September 2019.

Authorities did not share the identity of the deputy involved.

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(Watch the video below: Deputies arrest man after deadly shooting in Rowan County)