WEST JEFFERSON-In his five years as a deputy with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, Joshua Hopkins became both a popular reality T.V. personality and a lawman who found himself involved in two fatal shootings in three years.
Hopkins said Monday he’ll soon leave the ACSO for a job in Tennessee.
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams confirmed Monday Hopkins will take a job with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department in Elizabethton, Tenn. Both men said Hopkins’ move to a larger law enforcement agency was “long planned.” Hopkins last day with the ACSO is Oct. 15, Williams said.
“(Hopkins) is leaving absolutely of his own accord – not mine – and truthfully I hate to lose him,” Williams said Monday. “He works hard and he’s a good man, a good officer.”
Hopkins will serve as a member of Carter County’s warrant squad, a position he called his dream job, and gain experience working for an agency larger than the ACSO. At nearly 60,000 people, Carter County’s population is more than double that of Ashe County.
“He always said it was his goal to work for a bigger department and kind of get away from Ashe County,” Williams said. “He’s single and not attached to anything here, and it’s a good opportunity for him to get that kind of experience.”
Hopkins became a popular figure on Southern Justice, a National Geographic Channel reality show that followed Ashe County and Sullivan County, Tenn., law enforcement officers.
“He can be a funny guy, and that really came through on the show I think,” Williams said. “And people got a chance to see what these guys really go through.”
Hopkins called the chance to work on the show, “a blessing,” and credits it for helping to strengthen his relationship with his sister Wendy Hopkins.
“The show was a 100-percent positive experience for me,” Hopkins said. “So many people have reached out to me since the show to say, ‘Thanks,’ and that’s important to hear sometimes.”
But Hopkins has also been involved in two fatal shootings over the past three years. In August 2013, Hopkins and two other law enforcement officers were exonerated by District Attorney Tom Horner related to the fatal November 2012 shooting of Walter Mark Houck in Glendale Springs.
And Hopkins was also at the scene of a second shooting incident earlier this year that claimed the life of Dallas Shatley, 62, of Crumpler.
Williams said in previous interviews Shatley was shot as ACSO officers responded to a disturbance that was reported around 10 p.m. on Shatley Road on July 8.
According to statements released by Williams at the time, a deputy was dragged by a vehicle driven by Shatley and shots were fired. Shatley was later declared dead at Ashe Memorial Hospital. The deputy who was injured was also treated and released from AMH.
The deputies on-scene, including Christopher Roten and Hopkins, were placed on administrative leave, and an investigation into the shooting by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was launched.
That investigation continues and the deputies involved were returned to active duty by Williams last month.
“That case is still with the SBI and, typically, these cases can go on for almost a year before everything is finished,” Williams said. “This one is still pending but I feel confident that it’ll be ruled justified.”
Williams reiterated that neither shooting incident had an impact on Hopkins’ job with his office.
“You see all this stuff online from armchair quarterbacks who know everything but who really know nothing,” Williams said. “Hopkins has always done a good job for us and he’ll do the same in Carter County. We’ll miss him.”
Hopkins thanked Williams for helping him launch his law enforcement career, and for standing by him through both shooting investigations.
“The sheriff has been great to me but really this is a move I’d been considering for long time, even before the (Shatley) shooting,” Hopkins said. “I love Ashe County and everybody here. This was just the right move for me to further my career.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.