DA: Sampson County deputy justified in fatally shooting suspect who pointed gun during traffic stop

North Carolina

SALEMBURG, N.C. (WNCN) – The Sampson County deputy who shot and killed a man in July was justified, according to District Attorney Ernest Lee.

Craig Locklear was shot by a Sampson County deputy during a traffic stop in Salemburg on July 4.

The sheriff’s office said Locklear had fled after a vehicle chase early that morning involving two different departments. An investigation later determined that Locklear was in Fayetteville the night before celebrating his upcoming birthday. Witnesses said he had been drinking and doing drugs, according to a news release from Lee.

Family and friends tried to hide the keys to Locklear’s van, but he was given the keys after he got angry and broke a window at the home. People present told deputies that Locklear said “it would not end well” if law enforcement was contacted, the release from Lee said.

During the chase, which reached speeds of 100 mph, stop sticks were used to disable Locklear’s vehicle, but he ran on foot. An open bottle of tequila and a bottle of vodka were found in the car, the release said.

Authorities searched for him only to later suspend efforts. Evidence showed that Locklear contacted two relatives, who picked him up in a black Mazda 3000 pickup truck. He told them he planned to take a shower, then turn himself in to the police, the release from the district attorney said.

A deputy later patrolling the Bonnetsville and Laural Lake Campground areas conducted a traffic stop of the truck.

The deputy, who was not wearing a body camera and was not in a vehicle equipped with a camera, stopped the vehicle near Laural Lake and Lakewood School roads. As the deputy approached the truck, Locklear raised up out of the bed of the truck and brandished a firearm from his pocket.

The deputy and two of Locklear’s relatives both asked him to drop the gun, but he refused. He said he wouldn’t put it down and he wasn’t going to jail, the release said.

The deputy and a family member said Locklear raised the gun, at which point the deputy shot him four times. He died at the scene, the release said.

No one else was injured.

An investigation conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation affirmed statements made by the deputy and witnesses.

A statement from Lee said:

Based upon my review of the facts of this case, I have determined that the shooting of Craig Locklear was justified to protect the safety and life of the Sampson County deputy as the threat appeared to the deputy. Although the loss of life is tragic, the deputy perceived an apparent threat, evaluated the situation in seconds, made a decision and acted. The deputy’s actions appear reasonable under all the circumstances of this case. The deputy faced apparent danger as perceived by him. The deputy was justified in defending himself from death or great bodily injury. There is insufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the deputy acted in any manner that was not consistent with his perception of an apparent threat. In fact, an actual threat was posed by Locklear in that he possessed a loaded firearm that was raised by Locklear in the direction of the deputy.

I appreciate the thorough investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the assistance of the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office. These investigations demand a lot of resources from law enforcement and these investigations are often challenging as the SBI attempts to locate and interview witnesses, preserve the scene, collect evidence, and determine what occurred in often tragic situations. Ultimately, the job of the prosecutor is to ensure justice is done in this investigation as in all investigations. In this case, I have determined that the shooting was justified, and that the deputy acted in accordance with his training and in compliance with the rules and laws concerning use of force and self-defense.

District Attorney Ernest Lee

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