Charlotte pastor fought off attacker who was fatally shot by police officer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A pastor said he fought off an attacker who came into his church Wednesday afternoon moments before that man was fatally shot by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.

Police said a person who matched the description of a man involved in two armed robberies was shot and killed by an officer at a west Charlotte strip mall.

[PHOTOS: Officer-involved shooting at busy intersection in west Charlotte]

On Thursday, police identified the man as 32-year-old Michael Kelley.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Officer Timothy Kiefer encountered Kelley and, at some point, felt an imminent threat and fired a shot.

Officials said Kelley was taken to the hospital and later died.

We first updated WSOCTV news app users with a notification just before 5 p.m. Wednesday that there was an officer-involved shooting.

Download the WSOCTV news app for your smartphone and get updates on this developing story as they come in.

A knife was recovered at the scene.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said no officers were injured during the incident.

Just after 1:30 p.m., at South End Presbyterian Church, Kelley rang the doorbell and asked Larry James, a pastor, about becoming a Christian.

They talked about Jesus for nearly 20 minutes before the pastor said Kelly threatened to kill him, cut his face with a knife and then stole his car.

“Do you feel like he used prayer as a way to prey on you?” Eyewitness News anchor Allison Latos asked the pastor.

“Yeah, to a certain degree, that was his entrance. That was his way in,” James said. “We stood and we held hands.”

That peaceful prayer ended, and as soon as James walked Kelley to the door, he was attacked.

“He had a knife and said, ‘I will kill you. Give me your money, your keys, your wallet,’” James said. “I said, ‘No, I’m not giving it to you.'”

James said he fought back, and even though he was knocked to the floor, he said he kicked Kelley several times.

“When I kicked him, he kind of fell back,” James said. “I tried to get up, but he came back and grabbed my foot and tried to pull me back into the office.”

(Pastor Larry James)

After 15 minutes of wrestling and refusing to give Kelley his belongings, James got free.

“I thought, if I swung with my right (arm), he would still be able to cut me, so I surprised him with my left and hit him in the jaw,” James said. “From there, he ran out the door and took my car.”

Minutes later, police said Kelley robbed a Family Dollar store on West Tyvola Road.

Around 2:40 p.m., police said an officer found the stolen Infiniti abandoned in a shopping center on West Boulevard, a short distance from the Family Dollar.

Officers were in the area looking for the suspect when Kiefer, a K-9 handler, spotted Kelley and confronted him.

Police said Kelley ignored commands and sprinted toward police. Kiefer released his dog and opened fired, killing Kelley.

“Suddenly, I heard gunshots,” said James, who was nearby.

In 30 years as a pastor, James said he had never experienced violence. He said the attack won't stop him from sharing the message of Jesus.

“Do you have any regrets about welcoming him into your church?” Latos asked.

“No, I was doing what I do,” James said.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the massive police presence outside the shopping center on West Boulevard near Remount Road around sunset.

Chopper 9 saw dozens of officers in a parking lot at the busy intersection, with at least 10 evidence markers on the ground and crime scene tape cordoning off the area.

One witness said he saw the man pull an object from behind his back.

"The guy behind the dumpster came out with his hand behind his back, and the officer told him, 'Take your hand from behind your back,' about three times," witness Ron Straite said. "So, the guy started walking up on him. He pulled some object. I can't tell what it was, a gun, knife or what, but he pulled the object out, so the officer shot three times."

Investigators said they're still in the early stages of their investigation.

Per protocol, Kiefer has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. He has been with the Police Department since 2007.

[READ MORE: Eight CMPD officers placed on leave after deadly shooting]

Channel 9 reported that Kiefer was one of eight officers placed on leave in 2016 following a separate fatal officer-involved shooting.

[READ MORE: Police say man arrested in connection to multiday robbery spree]

Channel 9 also reported on Kelley in 2014, when he was arrested in connection with a multi-day robbery spree across the city. Kelley had just finished his parole on Tuesday, a day before he was shot.

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