JEFFERSON-Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said last week the state’s investigation into a fatal shooting in Crumpler last summer by ACSO deputies is still ongoing.
That news comes after Williams sat down with The Jefferson Post to discuss the challenges and opportunities his agency will face in 2016.
“That investigation remains with the (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation),” Williams said. “It’s yet to be handed over to the District Attorney who will ultimately be the one to make the final decision on that case.”
On Wednesday, July 8, Dallas Shatley, 62, of Crumpler was shot by sheriff’s deputies after he allegedly confronted the officers who were responding to a disturbance. The incident was reported around 10 p.m. in Crumpler on Shatley Road, just off of NC-16.
According to Williams, a deputy was dragged by a vehicle driven by Shatley and shots were fired. The deputy who was injured was treated and released from Ashe Memorial Hospital.
The NCSBI released the names of the deputies involved in the shooting – Christopher Lee Roten, a 10-year veteran of the ACSO and Joshua Franklin Hopkins, with five years with the ACSO, a week after the shooting.
In September, District Attorney Tom Horner handed the case over to District Attorney Garry Frank of Davie and Davidson Counties. Horner cited his close ties to the Shatley family as the reason for the move.
And Hopkins left the ACSO in October for a job with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department in Elizabethton, Tenn. That was a move Hopkins said was long-planned, and one Williams said came of Hopkins own accord.
The last fatal shooting by Ashe County officers – a November 2012 incident that claimed the life of Walter Mark Houck – took roughly nine months to be resolved. Hopkins, who was also involved in the Houck shooting, and two other officers were exonerated by Horner in August 2013. Once the SBI is finished, Williams said the entirety of that agency’s findings will be turned over to Frank who will ultimately decide whether criminal charges are to be filed in the Shatley case.
“It’s his call to say whether that shooting was justified or not, and he also retains the option of passing that evidence on to a grand jury,” Williams said.
Williams said body cameras worn by officers involved in the most recent shooting could play a key role in Frank’s decision.
“Pictures and video doesn’t lie,” Williams said. “So in one respect that’s a great thing. The DA can sit down and review those body cameras. I’ve looked at them and you can tell what went on and what was said. It’s a big aid in coming to a decision for these kinds of incidents, I’m sure.”
That footage has yet to be revealed to the public, however.
From one end of the state to the other
Williams also said he’d likely ask commissioners in 2016 for additional help in the form of a dedicated transfer team to meet growing inmate transportation demands. Williams highlighted the success of the NCAWARE system as something of a double-edged sword for his office.
The system provides an automated statewide warrant repository to maintain and track criminal processes and offender information that’s made available to court officials and law enforcement agencies with an Internet connection anywhere across the state.
“That means any law enforcement officer can stop a vehicle and they can run that information through that system,” Williams said. “Even if they’re in Wilmington and the person they’ve got stopped has a warrant for arrest here in Ashe because they owe child support, that officer makes that arrest and then we’ve got to go get them.”
Right now, Williams said the road officers he has on duty are tasked with retrieving that person. That’s combined with a growing number of involuntary commitments – that’s the process sometimes used to evaluate or start the treatment process for people suffering from mental illness – and a steady stream of inmates being transferred from Ashe County to state prison facilities in Yadkin County, Statesville or Raleigh, which Williams said is placing a strain on his office.
“Our guys cover 427-square miles and constantly having to pull guys off to run to the far end of the state puts a strain on us,” Williams said. “I’ve got to take guys aware from the patrol supervisor to go run this stuff down. I’d like to ask for a couple of full-time officers that we can task full-time to these transport tasks, because there’d definitely be enough work for them.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.