James HowellStaff Writerjhowell@heartlandpublications.com
November 21, 2012
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams released the names of the officers that have been placed on administrative leave after a deadly shooting in the Laurel Springs community on Nov. 19.
Williams also explained the presence of the West Jefferson Police Officer that was involved in the shooting.
According to an ACSO press release on Tuesday, Nov. 20, four officers responded to a call about a man shooting a gun off of his porch on Gaither Poe Road at 11 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19. The man was later identified to be Mark Houck, 47, of the Laurel Springs community.
“The officers identified themselves, and ordered the man to put down his weapon. Subject refused to comply, and began pointing the weapon at the officers. Officers fired their weapons, striking and killing the subject,” said the Nov. 20 press release.
According to Williams, Deputy Joshua Hopkins and Deputy Jeremy Munday from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and Officer Jake Howell from the West Jefferson Police Department were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation.
“Placing officers on leave after a shooting is standard procedure,” said Williams.
Deputy Brandon Howell from the Ashe County Sheriff’s office also responded to the shots fired call but was not placed on administrative leave.
When the Sheriff’s office received the call about gun fire on Gaither Poe Road, only one officer was available to respond to the call. However, Williams said it is unsafe to send only one officer to respond to a shots fired call.
At that point, the ACSO invoked the “Mutual Aid Agreement,” which allows officers from other municipalities to temporarily “assist other officers outside of their jurisdiction,” said Williams.
The ACSO asked the West Jefferson Police Department if they could send an officer to accompany a deputy from the ACSO to the scene, and Officer Jake Houck from the police department responded to the call.
After that decision was made, two more deputies from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office responded to the shots fired call, said Williams.
Until the SBI’s investigation is complete, it is unknown how many shots were fired at the scene and which deputy was the first to arrive, said Williams.
Although, Williams said “shots were fired both ways,” during the shooting.
An official with the N.C. Department of Justice was contacted about the procedure that occurs once there has been a law enforcement officer involved shooting.
According to Noelle Talley, public information officer with the N.C. DOJ, an investigation is not conducted unless it is requested by either the local sheriff or the local district attorney.
Talley said the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office did request the investigation into the shooting.
Agents with the SBI, said Talley, are responsible for the investigation. Their role, she said, is to gather evidence, conduct interviews with those involved and then prepare a report for the local district attorney.
At that point, said Talley, the DA will determine if the shooting was justified or if charges will be filed.
When asked about the time frame for this type of investigation, Talley said, “It is difficult to say.”
A release from the ACSO on Wednesday, Nov. 21 said “Williams further states that our hearts go out to the victim’s family, as well as to our officers and departments involved.”
The release also said further inquiries about the SBI’s investigation should be directed to its Hickory office.