DA says Bessemer City officers cleared in June 16 fatal shooting

BESSEMER CITY, N.C. — Gaston County’s District Attorney has cleared two police officers involved in a shooting that left a man dead following a brief foot chase earlier this month in Bessemer City.

Gaston County EMS said it responded around 8:30 a.m. on June 16 to a shooting call on Iowa Avenue and North 12th Street.

Law enforcement authorities told Channel 9 the shooting happened during a foot chase that originated two blocks away on Sunset Lane and ended with gunfire in an elderly couple’s yard.

The suspect who was shot by police, Billy Barker, died on the way to the hospital, officials told Channel 9. Police said the residents who lived at the property were inside at the time and were not hurt.

Patricia Grigg told Channel 9 that Barker was living behind her home on Sunset Lane.

Bessemer City officers were trying to serve arrest warrants on two wanted suspects at the home on Sunset Lane, authorities said in a news release. Officers then identified another person who was also wanted on outstanding warrants. Neighbors told Channel 9 that man was Barker.

Police said he then ran from officers when they tried to take him into custody. They chased him on foot for a short distance and told Barker to stop and show them his hands.

Witnesses heard police telling Barker to “get on the ground or I’ll shoot.”

Police said the suspect refused, and appeared to try to get something from his waistband several times. Officers said they believed Barker was an imminent threat and shot him.

According to District Attorney Locke Bell, the officers repeatedly gave Barker loud verbal commands to get on the ground. In Bell’s report, he said Barker approached the officer, turned sideways to the officer and acted as if he was drawing a gun from his pants. Barker continued to ignore orders and turned around more, with his back to the officer and his hands still in the position as if he was going to draw a gun. He then began to turn toward the officer, who fired once.

According to the district attorney’s report, Barker then moved a few steps toward the house, still pointing at the first officer and holding his right hand as if he had a gun in his pants in a threatening manner. That’s when the second officer, who had taken up a position on the other end of the house, fired once at Barker.

“It is clear that the officers had reasonable expectation of immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death at the time they discharged their service weapons,” Bell wrote. “The victim had assaulted an officer and threatened to kill him a few months before. He was facing criminal charges which would lead to many years in prison. He was fleeing arrest at the time and refused to comply with the officer’s commands. He also acted and posed in a fashion which would make a reasonable person feel threatened with immediate deadly assault.”

No police officers were injured.

‘He said he wasn’t going back to jail’

Some witnesses told Channel 9 they heard as many as five shots. A woman who did not want to be identified said, “I can’t remember exactly what time, but I heard three shots -- ‘pow, pow, pow.’”

Grigg said police shot Barker in the leg on Jan. 21. She said Barker was holding a BB gun at the time, and she said she will never forget what he told her after that shooting.

“He said he wasn’t going back to jail,” Grigg told Channel 9. “He wasn’t going to prison. They’d have to shoot him first.”

Grigg said police came back to her home again Wednesday morning and that was when Barker took off, which led to the deadly officer-involved shooting.

Neighbors described hearing an argument at the home before police arrived.

“I heard some loud noise,” said the woman who did not want to be identified. “People arguing back and forth like they usually do. But it was, it sounded like somebody was getting hurt, or they were screaming at each other.”

“Me and Billy, we’ve known each other, basically, my whole life,” said Austin Grigg, Barker’s close friend.

Barker was living with Austin Grigg and his mom.

Channel 9 crews saw a heavy police presence near the home with crime scene tape roping it off. The State Bureau of Investigation was called to the scene, along with the district attorney.

Two officers have been placed on administrative duty, which is standard protocol anytime an officer discharges their weapon, authorities said.

The SBI is the primary agency in the ongoing investigation.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

(WATCH BELOW: Concord officers who survived shootout open up about night that took life of fellow officer)

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