03/06/09 — Deputy cleared in Kenly shooting

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Deputy cleared in Kenly shooting

By Staff Reports
Published in News on March 6, 2009 1:46 PM

The Johnston County District Attorney says a deputy was justified in the shooting death of Reginald Lee Witcher during a confrontation with lawmen.

Sgt. Joel Keith Garner shot and killed Reginald Lee Witcher at his home near Kenly after police received an emergency call from the residence, District Attorney Susan Doyle said.

In a press statement released Thursday, the district attorney said Garner was justified in the shooting and that no charges would be filed.

Ms. Doyle said both her office and Johnston Sheriff Steve Bizzell's office conducted an investigation into the incident, with the help of state officials.

Ms. Doyle said she had reviewed a report prepared by the State Bureau of Investigation and also cited a meeting with SBI Agent M.T. Denning.

Multiple officers, including Garner, responded to 2439 Glendale Road, the Kenly residence of Witcher and his wife, Belinda, on Nov. 22, 2008.

Thomas Wayne Mooney, who was intoxicated, told dispatchers that his wife, Jennifer Bryan Mooney, had fallen outside the residence and injured herself.

Witcher allegedly told the first responding authorities that no one had called for their help, and everything was "OK."

"However, first responders could clearly see a female lying on the ground. EMS then requested a deputy because they observed Witcher, his wife and Mooney, who made the original call, were very intoxicated.

Witcher allegedly fought with officers while they tried to treat Jennifer Bryan Mooney, the district attorney said in the release.

Then, witnesses said they saw Witcher standing on the porch with a shotgun.

Garner and Deputy Adam Case repeatedly advised Johnston emergency communications that they were facing a man with a gun, the district attorney said in the release.

They repeatedly commanded Witcher to put down the gun, but he refused, Ms. Doyle said.

Witcher allegedly fired one shot at Garner, shattering a storm door and showering the two officers with glass, the district attorney said.

Garner crouched down between the front door and the porch railing, then fired eight rounds into the house in the direction from which the shots were fired, according to the release.

It was less than two seconds between the time Garner saw Witcher raise the shotgun until Garner fired his weapon, according to the district attorney.

An autopsy revealed that Witcher died of three gunshot wounds to the chest, the district attorney said.

The medical examiner, Dr. Deborah Radisch, determined that Reginald Witcher's blood alcohol content was .30, nearly four times the legal limit to operate a vehicle, Ms. Doyle said.

"Sergeant Garner was required to make a split-second judgment concerning the use and degree of force necessary in this particular setting, just as any reasonable law enforcement officer would do under similar circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving," Ms. Doyle said.