HUBERT, N.C. (WNCT) District Attorney Ernie Lee said that an Onslow County deputy was justified in his use of deadly force in a shooting reported in Hubert on April 15.
On April 15, Tony Michael Clements, 33, of Hubert, was shot and killed by a deputy with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident was reported near the residence of Clements on Zachary Lane in Hubert.
Initial officers at the scene were two deputies with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and one off-duty inspector with the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.
After reviewing the investigation of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, it is clear that Clements’ death was justified because Clements’ actions caused a deputy with the OCSO to reasonably believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect the lives of himself and other law enforcement officers at the scene.
In addition, a 17-year-old was shot and wounded by Clements prior to Clements’ confrontation with the OCSO.
The investigation shows that the Onslow County deputies responded to two 911 calls in the Hubert area of Onslow County.
The first was from a parent of Clements requesting law enforcement assistance in reference to his aggressive behavior.
Two deputies responded to Buckhead Drive in Hubert to meet with the two parents.
The deputies were provided information that Clements was drinking whiskey and being disruptive.
A second 911 call was made an individual at a residence on Zachary Lane while deputies were addressing the situation with Clements’ parents.
The second 911 call concerned Clements shooting a 17-year-old.
The evidence shows that the 17-year-old victim traveled to his residence on Zachary Lane at about 3:45 p.m.
He parked in his driveway and observed Clements running toward him with a rifle.
Clements jumped a ditch in the victim’s yard and shot into the ground.
The victim locked the door of his truck and he ducked into his seat.
Clements then shot into his driver’s window four-five times.
The assault on the 17-year-old was unprovoked and not justified under the law.
The victim was shot twice in the head and neck area and once in his arm.
Deputies heard over the radio that someone had been shot at 223 Zachary Lane.
The two deputies and the DMV inspector immediately responded to Zachary Lane while Clements’ parents remained at Buckhead Drive.
A United States Marine neighbor heard the shooting and told the SBI that he saw an individual, later identified as Clements, standing in the front of the 17-year-old’s residence holding a rifle.
The Marine neighbor went back inside his residence to retrieve his Glock .45 caliber pistol and after retrieving his Glock .45, he noted that the individual with the rifle was walking down the street.
The Marine fired no rounds from his weapon.
The Marine was a friend of the 17-year-old victim, and he went inside the victim’s residence to provide medical treatment.
The two deputies responded and while attempting to defend himself and others against Clements who was armed and shooting toward the deputies, one deputy shot and killed Clements.
Neighbors indicated that the deputies exited their vehicles and began to take fire from Clements.
The deputies told Clements to drop his weapon and the neighbors heard return fire from law enforcement.
One neighbor heard the deputies tell Clements to put the weapon down several times and Clements kept holding it.
Clements then directed his fire toward the deputies and DMV inspector who were about 100 yards from Clements.
Clements began approaching the deputies.
One deputy indicated that Clements was within 50-70 yards from them and he could observe him holding a rifle.
This deputy drew his service handgun and commanded the individual to drop his weapon.
Clements raised his rifle and shot about three-four times in the air and then Clements lowered his weapon toward the deputies and fired three-four more rounds.
One of the deputies retrieved his OCSO issued Colt 5.56mm .225 Rem FC 15 rifle from his patrol vehicle and returned fire.
That deputy fired 10 rounds.
Only one deputy or law enforcement officer fired a weapon.
Clements dropped his rifle, sat down, and then stood up.
Deputies continued giving commands to Clements to lay down on his stomach.
Clements did not comply with commands and tried to go in a side door of a garage located at 216 Zachary Lane.
Additional law enforcement was being dispatched to the scene.
After the shooting incident, SBI Crime Scene SBI Crime Scene Investigators located 10 .223 Rem shell casings at the scene.
Two Swansboro Police Department officers arrived on the scene and began approaching 216 Zachary Lane to proceed around the backyard.
These two officers proceeded to Clements.
One of the Swansboro Police Department officers checked his pulse and was unable to detect a pulse.
EMS responded to the scene for Clements and the 17-year-old victim.
Clements was dead at the scene.
The 17-year-old victim, a Marine dependent, was transported to Naval Medical Center at Camp Lejeune.
The victim had been shot two times on the left side of his head fracturing his jaw bone.
He was also shot in the left arm.
Fragments of glass from the car window penetrated and cut his upper body.
The 17-year-old victim said that the shooter shot into his truck several times to break the side window.
The crime scene investigation showed that Clements had fired a Ruger model 10/22 CR rifle and at the time the rifle was seized there was one round in the chamber with a magazine with nine “C” .22 rounds.
At the scene, crime scene investigators located 22 “C” shell casings.
The deputy who fired the fatal shots indicated that he believed that Clements pointing and discharging his weapon in the direction of deputies on the scene was a danger to himself and others.
The SBI assigned 11 agents to the investigation.
In addition, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents and Onslow County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on scene.
District Attorney Ernie Lee reviewed the SBI investigation which included interviews of two deputies with the Onslow County Sherriff’s Office, one DMV inspector, eight neighbors or witnesses, two family members of Clements, the 17-year-old and two members of his family, two Onslow EMS medical personnel, and the pathologist.
In addition, Lee reviewed 17 discs of interviews, videos, and other materials, the personnel file of the deputy, and other documents.
On Friday, Lee had contact with the father of Clements and he indicated that he was grateful that no law enforcement officers were injured and also had contact with the mother of the 17-year-old victim and he is recovering well from his injuries.
The SBI interviewed the parents of Clements.
During 2018 and 2019, Clements’ behavior became noticeably erratic, he appeared depressed, and he said he was hearing voices, Lee said.
Clements refused to seek medical assistance.
Lee said the shooting death of Clements is found to be justified to protect the safety and lives of the law enforcement officers at the scene from potential harm as perceived by law enforcement at the scene.
There were also other residences located in the vicinity of the residence of Clements and potential harm to those living in this vicinity.
According to the evidence, the deputy was justified in using deadly force to defend himself and others from death or great bodily injury.
Clements pointed a rifle at the deputies which is a criminal offense in North Carolina.
The deputy in the case perceived a threat and returned fire to neutralize the threat.
On April 16, an autopsy was conducted showing that Clements was struck one time in the chest with the trajectory going from front to rear.
The pathologist determined that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest.
The gunshot wound was consistent with being a distant gunshot.
There is no evidence that the number of shots fired by the deputy was excessive but even if there are an excessive number of shots fired, the question is whether the perceived threat has been neutralized for the safety of the law enforcement officers present.
There is insufficient evidence to show that any of the officers, including the deputy who fired the fatal shots, acted in a manner that was inconsistent with their perception of an apparent threat.