Off-duty officer charged with murder following domestic dispute in Gaston County

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — An off-duty Ranlo police officer was terminated from the police department after he was charged with first-degree murder following a domestic dispute early Sunday morning, according to the Town of Ranlo.

Town Manager Jonathan Blanton and Ranlo Chief of Police Jimmy Lunsford hand-delivered the termination notice to Kwaku Riley Agyapon while he was in the Cleveland County Jail.

Officials say they responded to a call for service just before 2 a.m. on Burlington Avenue near Spencer Mountain Road.

At the scene, officials found Officer Kwaku Riley Agyapon, who was off-duty at that time. Agyapon, known as “Riley,” had been involved in a domestic dispute, according to officials.

Officers said Agyapon was stabbed multiple times, discharged his service weapon and killed the stabbing suspect, who was identified as 33-year-old Juan Nikely Avalo.

Ranlo police said Avalo was taken to the hospital where he later died.

Following an investigation, the State Bureau of Investigation said they obtained a warrant for first-degree murder against Agyapon.

Ranlo Chief of Police Jimmy Lunsford said the officer has been placed on unpaid administrative leave, pending an internal investigation. Police said that Agyapon was fairly new to the department -- he had only been working there since August.

VIDEO: Ranlo officer accused of murder previously charged in school bus confrontation

Officials said Agyapon was taken to the hospital after the incident and, upon his discharge, was taken to the Gaston County jail Wednesday.

Channel 9′s veteran crime reporter Glenn Counts spoke with Agyapon’s ex-neighbor, who said she was shocked by the charges he is facing and has lost a bit of respect for him.

“Shocked, shocked because he was really easygoing, he was always friendly, you know he spoke he had children and he took care of his kids, but I’m just blown away really,” the neighbor said.

Trevor Toodzieki, a neighbor, said he was still trying to understand what happened Sunday morning.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me because like I say the cops around here are usually very helpful and very professional so it doesn’t really make much sense to me,” Toodzieki said.

City Manager Jonathan Blanton stressed to Channel 9′s Ken Lemon that Agyapon was not acting as a police officer at the time of this shooting.

”Incredibly shocking, disappointing, and disheartening with the circumstances of the last few days. Our hearts, prayers, and thoughts go out to everyone involved, from the victim to the victim’s family, to the officer’s family, to everyone that’s been affected by this,” Blanton said.

Channel 9 also discovered that Agyapon is married to Shana Lanham, the mother of toddler Addison Laham. Addison was two years old when she died in a Gaston County motel in 2011.

Investigators said the toddler had a broken leg that went untreated for weeks. She then became infected with MRSA, which spread to her bloodstream and killed her.

Shana Lanham pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in that case in July 2011 and was released from prison in 2020.


(WATCH BELOW: Homicide investigation underway in northeast Charlotte, CMPD says)