04/15/09 — Detective sues landlord, shooter over injuries

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Detective sues landlord, shooter over injuries

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 15, 2009 1:46 PM

Bobby Rawlings

The retired narcotics detective who took a bullet in the chest when raiding a convicted crack dealer's home has sued his attacker and the man's landlord, records show.

Former Detective Brady Thompson retired from the Goldsboro Police Department in January, after a career that spanned from 1983 to 2009.

His career could have been cut short, he and other authorities say, had it not been for a bulletproof vest that deflected a shot to his chest during a 2006 raid.

Bobby Lee Rawlings, now 61, has been convicted on federal charges for drug trafficking, and pleaded guilty on local charges for assault and attempted murder on the detective.

The shot came during a raid of a home occupied by Rawlings and others at 1200 E. Elm St., records show. The former detective said he "cleared" one room, then turned a corner to check another when he saw a blue flash, he has said.

The shot knocked him to the ground, and police allege Rawlings kept firing at another officer until his weapon jammed.

In Wayne County Superior Court, Rawlings pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for the incident.

But the gun assault is not the only subject of the suit.

Thompson's attorney, Glenn A. Barfield of Goldsboro-based Haithcock, Barfield, Hulse & Kinsey, alleges that Rawlings' landlord, a man named Thele Whitleau, was negligent.

Police, including Thompson and others who took the stand in Rawlings' trial, have testified that the home was set up to prevent quick action in a drug raid.

Specifically, Thompson said the door was heavily barricaded with lumber and a surveillance camera system had been set up.

Barfield said he believes that is enough to constitute negligence -- that Whitleau "knew or should have known" that drug activity was taking place in the home he was renting out.

"It (1200 E. Elm Street) was set up to be made more difficult for officers to try to enter it, to delay them," the attorney said. "To delay them allows the ... occupants inside to prepare themselves, in this case to conduct an assault upon the officer."

Barfield acknowledges that the case has "unusual" circumstances.

One problem might be that the former landlord, Whitleau, may have passed away.

Attempts to serve a subpoena to his New York address have thus far been unsuccessful, the attorney said.

Rawlings has been served with a subpoena in prison, Barfield said. According to state corrections records, Rawlings is serving time at Warren Correctional Insti-tute in Manson.

The inmate advised authorities that his former landlord, Whitleau, had passed away, Barfield said. Barfield said Whitleau might have heirs who could become involved in the case.

The attorney said he enlisted a paralegal to search a variety of public records to determine whether Whitleau is still alive.

Meanwhile, Barfield will seek damages "in excess of $10,000," a phrase required under North Carolina law for cases such as this one, when a plaintiff seeks more than $10,000.

Barfield has demanded a jury trial in the case, according to court records.

"We have a justice system and the guy (Rawlings) has been sentenced. It just seems to me that he's not the only one who should be held accountable," Barfield said.

The newspaper's own attempts to reach Whitleau were unsuccessful.