KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. — A Kings Mountain police officer, who was shot in the line of duty, has returned home after being in a hospital for two weeks.
According to Police Chief Lisa Proctor, 13-year department veteran Corporal Frank Lee Whittington Jr. was responding to a call about a suspicious person when the shootout happened.
The gunfire happened just after 8 p.m. on Dec. 19 along Downing Drive, near the Kings Mountain Country Club.
Antonio Cortez Anthony, 30, faces several charges, including attempted murder. He was released from the hospital and booked into jail.
Proctor said someone in a house on Downing Drive called police to report that someone suspicious was on their back porch. The suspect ran off toward the country club, which is where Whittington confronted him.
That’s when the officer and the suspect exchanged gunfire, and both were shot.
Whittington was taken to Atrium Health-Cleveland in Shelby to be treated after being shot twice.
“We are very thankful that he is still alive and that we are not planning funeral number three in the last week-and-a-half for another officer,” the chief said, eluding to the deaths of police officers in Concord and Mount Holly, both killed in the line of duty.
The suspect, Anthony, who was shot, was taken to a hospital in Gaston County to be treated and had surgery.
Anthony was released from the hospital and is now in jail without bond for several charges, including first-degree attempted murder, assaulting a police officer with a firearm, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Whittington grew up in Kings Mountain and has been with the department for 13 years, Proctor said. She spoke with him before he went into surgery.
“He is thankful for the support, and that he is still alive,” Proctor said. “The outpouring from the community has been overwhelming.”
Family members said Whittington wanted to be an officer since he was a little boy. The only thing he wanted from Kings Mountain was to be able to protect it.
“He’s a good guy. I’ve known him for a while, locally. I used to be on the fire department,” said friend Ricky McDonald.
He said it was tough to learn that Whittington had been shot and that he admires police officers who go to work every day, knowing the danger that’s involved.
“It hurt. It’s real close to the house. It hurt deep knowing what those guys go through,” McDonald said. “This world is crazy, man. There needs to be more punishment for criminals, especially that harm police officers, any type of law enforcement. I look up to them.”
The SBI will be handling the investigation, which is standard procedure when there is a shooting involving a police officer.
“I’d like to ask the community to continue your prayers for our officers -- the one that has been shot, and my heart goes out to the Mount Holly family and the Concord family at this most difficult time,” Proctor said.
On Monday, someone had planted a sign in front of the Kings Mountain Police Department with a simple message of support: “Thank you heroes.”
According to officials, a Kings Mountain police officer was shot more than 40 years ago on the same exact same day. Officer Bob Hayes was shot four times on Dec. 19, 1977. He survived and went back to duty after he recovered.
This also marked the third shooting involving a police officer that has happened in the last two weeks in our area.
On Wednesday night, Concord Police Officer Jason Shuping, 25, was killed in a shootout with a man outside a fast-food restaurant near Concord Mills.
A memorial has been growing outside the Concord Police Department headquarters, where Shuping is being remembered for his bravery and ultimate sacrifice.
Officer Kaleb Robinson, 23, was also shot in the exchange of gunfire but is expected to be OK.
Last week, Mount Holly police officer Tyler Herndon was killed while responding to a break-in at an arcade and car wash on Beatty Drive.
Herndon died two days before his 26th birthday.
His family said Herndon was proud to be a police officer and loved his community.
(WATCH BELOW: Kings Mountain Police Chief Lisa Proctor gives an update on her injured officer)
After providing an update on her injured officer, Chief Proctor was asked her thoughts about the recent violence against police. Below is her emotional message:
“This is insane. What law enforcement is having to put up with and deal with now, more than ever. It’s kinda hard to talk about. Because no one, and I mean no one, knows what it costs to put one of these badges on every morning, knowing that as soon as you go out that front door, you’re an instant target.
“How many other people have jobs to where as soon as you walk out that door, wearing your uniform, you become a target? I know no other people who are willing to lay down their life except Christ, the military, and police officers.
“This is a calling -- this is not a job for law enforcement. This is a calling, because I can grant you, none of us do this for the pay. There’s many of us who could walk today and retire, but we choose to stay. Or we can go out early on the new 25-year retirement, but we continue to stay. Because it’s a calling.
“There’s something bigger than us that drives us to do what we do every day. It’s a cliche -- to protect and serve -- but until you wear this badge, you will never understand what that means. It is more than that. It is a passion for the people. It is a passion that you are actually willing to lay down your life for someone you don’t even know, just so they can have peace in their community. So that they can live, and so their children can grow up and be safe. And what I’ve seen this past year, that society has turned towards law enforcement and demonized us over the acts of a chosen few, over the thousands and thousands of us who continue to wear the badge and take ridicule by actions of others that we have no control over, is despicable.
“My officers -- and 99.9 percent of the officers out there across this great nation -- stand for integrity. We stand for pride. We stand for community love and involvement. Not just part of the community, all of the community. Not just one side of the country club, but all sides of every development, whether it be the lowest income housings in town or whether it be the country club.
“We’re all created equal and all of us deserve equal treatment -- that includes law enforcement. No one wants to be stereotyped. No one wants to be judged on the color of their skin or the uniform they wear. It’s wrong. It’s wrong as a society to do that. Are there bad apples out there across this nation? We’ve all seen it. And let me tell, you nobody hates a bad cop more than us who are good cops.”
Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.