CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — A man pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting and killing a Shelby police officer in 2016.
Police said Irving Fenner Jr. shot Officer Tim Brackeen in the chest on Sept. 10, 2016, while the officer was serving a warrant on him.
Brackeen’s body camera reportedly captured the officer yelling at Fenner to 'Stop' during a struggle.
Prosecutors said before Fenner pulled the trigger, he told the officer, “Don’t move or I will shoot you.”
The officer died two days later and Fenner was found hiding out in Rhode Island soon after.
Channel 9's Ken Lemon was the only reporter in the courtroom when Fenner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty.
Defense attorney Victoria Jayne, who originally claimed Fenner had a diminished mental capacity, said the plea is the best ending for the situation.
“We don’t expect them to forgive Irving for what happened," Jayne said. "We understand their anger. They are entitled to that, but what we do think has happened is their hearts have softened, and they have finally given into merciful justice.”
The district attorney told Channel 9 he accepted the plea because he worried about the possibility that jurors could give Fenner second-degree murder.
With this plea, Fenner will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Several law enforcement officers and supporters could be seen sitting with Brackeen's family as the judge approved the deal.
"Three years ago, right after you shot my son, I chose not to hate you," said Brackeen's father.
Brackeen was a decorated K-9 officer and his death shook the Cleveland County community -- so much so that jury selection was moved to Catawba County because a judge ruled Fenner wouldn't get a fair trial in the high-profile case.
A bill named after the 12-year veteran officer that will increase the punishment for people who assault law enforcement officers with a gun will go into effect in December.
The law will increase the penalty for someone who shoots a police officer from a class E felony to a Class D, which comes with a minimum sentence of 38 months.
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