SBI shooting investigation nears completion

James HowellStaff

February 3, 2013

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation is nearing the completion of its investigation into the shooting death of a Laurel Springs man by three law enforcement officers last year, according to a spokesperson with the N.C. Department Justice.

“The SBI is in the final stages of this investigation. Once the final autopsy report is received, agents will compile their report to deliver to the district attorney,” said Jennifer Canada, the assistant public information officer at the N.C. DOJ.

Canada could not provide a more concret timetable for the close of the investigation.

The shooting occured after 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.

Sheriff James Williams later said “shots were fired both ways” during the incident. He also said “placing officers on leave after a shooting is standard procedure.”

The officers involved in the shooting were Deputy Joshua Hopkins and Deputy Jeremy Munday from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and Officer Jake Howell from the West Jefferson Police Department.

Those three officers were placed on administrative leave by Williams for several weeks after the shooting. The officers returned from leave on Jan. 5 (Hopkins and Munday) and Jan. 6 (Howell).

Deputy Brandon Howell from the Ashe County Sheriff’s office also responded to the shots fired call but was not placed on administrative leave.

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.”

After the shooting, the ACSO requested an investigation by the SBI, according to Noelle Talley, the public information officer with the N.C. Department of Justice.

Agents with the SBI, said Talley, are responsible for the investigation. Their role is to gather evidence, conduct interviews with those involved and then prepare a report for the local district attorney.

That report is expected to be completed soon, and afterward, the DA will determine if the shooting was justified or if charges will be filed.

According to 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.