District Attorney’s Office: Deputy justified in use of deadly force in Richlands standoff

Crime Tracker

RICHLANDS, N.C. (WNCT) District Attorney Ernie Lee said a deputy was justified in his use of deadly force in a standoff reported in Richlands in September 2019.

On September 25, 2019, Haywood Cannon of Jacksonville, was shot and killed by a deputy assigned to the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident was reported at the residence of Cannon at 161 Booth Lane in Richlands.

At the scene were the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), the Jacksonville Police Department (JPD), the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), including aerial reconnaissance provided by the State Highway Patrol. 

After reviewing the investigation of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, it is clear that Cannon’s death, while tragic, was justified because Cannon’s actions caused a deputy with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office to reasonably believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect the lives of law enforcement officers at the scene. 

The investigation showed that prior to the shooting a trooper with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol was traveling on routine patrol north on Union Chapel Church Road (SR 1227). 

The trooper observed a small white pick-up truck traveling south on SR 1227 and that vehicle was traveling left-of-center which caused the trooper to move to the right.

As the truck passed, the trooper observed the vehicle in his side mirror crossing the fog line and appearing to run off the roadway to the right.

The trooper turned around activating his blue lights and siren.

Once behind the vehicle, the trooper observed the truck weaving and crossing the centerline. 

The truck did not stop. 

The trooper notified the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) Elizabethtown Communications at 11:43 a.m. that he was pursuing a vehicle on SR 1227 traveling toward Catherine Lake Road (NC 111). 

The driver of the truck, identified as Cannon, approached the stop sign at SR 1127 and NC 111, stopped behind another vehicle at the stop sign. 

The trooper was suspicious that the driver of the truck was impaired.

The trooper exited his patrol vehicle and attempted contact with the driver.

The door to the truck was locked and the driver looked at the trooper, accelerated and drove around the vehicle that was stopped at the stop sign.

The truck proceeded turned right on NC 111 and traveled west at approximately 45 mph.

The driver continued to make lane violations.

The trooper paced driver Cannon at 45 mph which is the posted speed limit on this section of NC 111.

The driver turned left onto Booth Lane which is a non-paved road in a wooded residential area. 

The driver displayed a long gun out the driver’s window and the trooper felt threatened by the display of the weapon.

The trooper continued to follow the driver and the driver stopped at a residence.

The driver exited his truck and the driver took a defensive shooting position behind a woodpile on the porch of the residence.

The residence is a single-wide trailer.

The driver barricaded himself inside his residence while armed with a rifle.

The trooper gave a verbal command to the driver to drop the weapon.

The driver refused to comply with the commands.

The trooper requested and waited for law enforcement assistance.

The pursuit began at approximately 11:43 a.m. and ended at 11:46 a.m. as the driver exited from his truck at his residence. 

The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office was monitoring the incident between the trooper and Cannon.

Around 11:45 a.m., the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team responded to the scene at Booth Lane.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers were on scene.

Upon arrival at the scene, some members of this SWAT team were placed on the perimeter of the residence and others staged at Catherine Lake Baptist Church located on Catherine Lake Road across from Booth Lane.

Around 12:25 p.m., three members of the SWAT team were assigned to the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and two members of this team were requested to perform reconnaissance of Cannon’s property. 

The deputy who subsequently fatally shot Cannon was part of this reconnaissance QRF and determined that a window on the left side of the residence was boarded up and the gate at the front of the residence was locked. 

The deputy who subsequently fired the fatal shots was initially armed with a less than lethal shotgun, which uses beanbag rounds and a Palmetto AR-15 assault rifle.

The AR-15 was loaded with a magazine containing Remington 223 ammunition.

From 1:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. the deputy took cover with two NCSHP troopers within sight of the residence.

Around 5:30 p.m., the Jacksonville Police Department tactical team deployed to the scene with their tactical rescue vehicle, Bearcat.

Onslow County deputies attempted to negotiate with Cannon for about two hours including by use of a loudspeaker.

In addition, an SBI robot dropped a throw phone at the gate of the residence.

Cannon did not respond to the attempted negotiations and remained armed.  

Members of the SWAT team decided to attempt to breach the window on the left side of the residence.

The deputy who subsequently fired the fatal shots took cover behind a pump house near the residence with other deputies.

They remained there for approximately 30 minutes.

The pump house was approximately 20 yards from the back door of the residence.

Gas was deployed by law enforcement to the left window of the residence in an attempt to have Cannon exit the residence and surrender.

Cannon was observed by law enforcement moving toward the back door.

Cannon was heard yelling and cursing inside the residence.

A member of the Jacksonville police deployed the Bearcat to the back door and took down the back patio and bushes.

The Bearcat rammed the back door approximately two times and the door swung inward. 

Cannon stepped outside the back door with his hands by his sides.

He had a shotgun slung over his chest and he returned inside the residence after cursing in the direction of the Bearcat.

Cannon came back out of the residence a second time for approximately 7-8 seconds.

He still had the shotgun and a full bandolier which contained 25 shotgun shells.

Cannon went back inside the residence for approximately 20-30 seconds and he pointed a weapon toward the Bearcat.

The barrel disappeared for about 10-15 seconds and then Cannon fired a semi-automatic shotgun toward the Bearcat from the back doorway.

Prior to 7:00 p.m., Cannon shot one time toward the Bearcat striking a headlight of the Bearcat.  

After Cannon fired his weapon, the deputy positioned by the pump house fired three quick rounds at Cannon.

The deputy provided a statement to the SBI and indicated he was concerned for the safety of other law enforcement personnel on the scene when Cannon displayed and fired his weapon. 

The deputy said after Cannon fired his weapon, the deputy removed the safety on his AR-15 and fired three quick rounds at the back doorway.

After the deputy fired his AR-15, there was no movement by Cannon. 

The SWAT team entered the residence and located Cannon who was non-responsive on his back just inside the residence.

The SWAT team called for medical assistance.

At the time of the shooting, Cannon was wearing the bandolier with shotgun shells and he was armed with a semi-automatic shotgun.    

District Attorney Ernie Lee was contacted and went to the scene and remained with law enforcement until after 11:00 p.m.

The District Attorney’s Office prepared a search warrant for a building located in the curtilage of what was believed to be the property of the defendant.

Ernie Lee met with Special-Agent-in-Charge Kevin Tabron of the SBI at the scene and joined in the request of the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office to have the shooting death of Cannon investigated by the SBI.

The officer involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave pending further review.

The SBI investigation included interviews of 11 deputies with the OCSO, interviews with five officers with the Jacksonville Police Department, the NCSHP report, the autopsy conducted by Dr. John Almeida, the toxicology report, and video from the Bearcat.

After the shooting incident, the deputy’s AR-15 was seized by the SBI and the rifle was loaded with a magazine containing 25 rounds of “REM 223 FC 15” ammunition.

Three rounds were determined to have been fired by the deputy and three REM 223 shell casings were located at and recovered by the SBI at and near the pump house. 

After the shooting, a Remington semi-automatic 12-gauge model 1100 was located next to the body of Cannon.

The shotgun was loaded with four Winchester 12-gauge shotgun shells.

Cannon was found wearing the bandolier with 25 shotgun shells in the bandolier.   

The investigation showed that the premises on which Haywood Cannon resided contained what could be described as a partial barricade around the residence and signs with what appeared to Cannon’s signed name warning federal and state law enforcement agencies from having access to his property. 

On September 26, 2019, pathologist Dr. John L. Almeida, examined Cannon at Onslow Memorial Hospital and he determined that the cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the chest and shoulder.

Bullet fragments were recovered.

The toxicology report was negative for ethanol and any drugs.    

The deputy who fired the fatal shots indicated that he felt that Cannon pointing and discharging his weapon in the direction of officers on the scene was a danger to others.

Officers inside the Bearcat reported feeling threatened by the discharge of the weapon toward the Bearcat.

At the time that Cannon was shot by the deputy, he ceased to be a threat to the officers. 

According to a release, the shooting death of Cannon was 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 Cannon and potential harm to those living in this vicinity.   

Ernie Lee said the deputy was justified in using deadly force to defend himself and others from death or great bodily injury.  

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