‘He’s a hero’: Edgecombe County sheriff describes actions of deputy stabbed in line of duty

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TARBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – The suspect who was killed after stabbing an Edgecombe County deputy on Thursday had a history of mental illness, Sheriff Cleveland Atkinson said.

The sheriff said deputies were called to a home around 2 p.m. in the 4300 block of McNair Road. A caller reported the suspect was chasing a family member with a knife.

At 2:07 p.m., a corporal with the sheriff’s office arrived at the residence and began speaking with the person who called 911.

At 2:09 p.m., a second deputy arrived as backup. Atkinson said his office has been called to this home three times recently in reference to the suspect.

The caller went to open the door of the home for the corporal when the suspect, who Atkinson said was a 32-year-old man, lunged out and stabbed the corporal twice.

Family members identified the suspect as Germaine Harris.

Germain Harris (Image provided by family)

“Watching this on video, my deputy was stabbed within three seconds,” Atkinson said. “My deputies had no time to react.”

At 2:10 p.m., a third deputy arrived on scene as the stabbing was occurring.

Atkinson said the suspect began to chase the second deputy on scene with what he said was a “tactical-style pocket knife.”

That was when the third deputy at the scene shot and killed the suspect.

The injured corporal was transported to Vidant Health in Greenville for treatment. He was treated and released and is recovering at home, Atkinson said.

“To see his face, to talk to him was a joy,” Atkinson.

Atkinson said called the corporal involved a hero and got emotional when describing the deputy’s actions.

“He protected the caller despite being stabbed. He remained calm, still provided professional instructions to the other two deputies on the scene,” Atkinson said. “He’s a hero.”

Harris’ family has called the sheriff several times to check on the condition of the injured deputy.

The incident was captured on body-worn cameras being worn by all three deputies. Those videos have been handed over to the SBI.

Atkinson said body-worn cameras have been the “best investment” his office has made.

“Transparency at its best,” the sheriff said.

Harris’ aunt, Helen Mayo, said she raised him since the age of 4.

She said he was diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 19.

“He cooked and cleaned until his health went bad his mental illness went bad,” Mayo said.

He had been on and off of medication to treat that illness since. Harris’ family had tried to get him help at local facilities as well.

Mayo told CBS 17 he stopped taking medication three weeks ago and yesterday’s incident stemmed over a pack of cigarettes.

“He wasn’t taking his meds,” Mayo said. “I tried to give them to him and he stopped me.”

Along with the calls at the home on McNair Road, deputies were called to another home in reference to the suspect.

Atkinson said law enforcement needs help with dealing with mental illness calls.

“We need help. We need long-term facilities,” the sheriff said. “Our officers are doing more than ever dealing with mental illness.”

Atkinson said it is up to District Attorney Robert Evans to release the names of those involved.

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