One person is dead and two more are in custody after an officer-involved shooting in Lenoir Tuesday morning. Police say it happened at the Walmart just off of Highway 321 near Greenhaven Drive NW.
Lenoir Police Chief Scott Brown says his officers “were heroes today.” Those four officers were placed on administrative leave after a confrontation with a man ended in an exchange of gunfire and the suspect being killed.
It started just after 8 a.m. when employees at the Walmart in Lenoir called police to investigate suspicious activity that may have involved a break-in. When officers arrived, they confronted a man and a woman inside the store and, after asking a few questions, took them into custody.
“I saw a man and woman being handcuffed,” said Shaun Helton, who was inside waiting for the pharmacy to open.
That’s when police said a third person, later identified as Carl Nivens, had a confrontation with an officer and started running.
Chief Brown said Nivens pulled out a handgun and fired a shot at the officers. Another officer at the front door tried to grab Nivens and started wrestling with him. At that point, another officer fired a shot that hit Nivens.
Medical crews came within minutes, but Nivens died at the scene. Brown said surveillance cameras at the store and body cams on the officers confirm what witnesses and the officers said happened.
“They acted properly, they did what they had to do under the circumstances,” said Brown.
The State Bureau of Investigation is handling the case for now. District Attorney David Learner came to the scene to learn more about what happened. He will await a report from the SBI before making any determinations.
Investigators were collecting evidence inside and outside the store for hours, including shell casings and the handgun believed to be the one used by Nivens.
The man and woman who were detained were identified as Natasha Stanley and Jose Flores. Both were arrested on outstanding warrants from Burke County on unrelated charges. With the investigation into Tuesday’s incident continuing, officials do expect more charges against the pair.
Nivens has been convicted of several charges in recent years, including an assault by strangulation and various other crimes.
Brown said it is lucky that the shot fired by Nivens did not hit anyone. The bullet went through a wall in the store and into the game room where several electronic arcade-style games are located. The bullet shattered the glass on one machine but no one was inside the arcade when it happened.
The Chief did not know how long the investigation would take place and while the loss of any life, he said, is something no one wanted, “I am as thankful for the safety of the officers as I have ever been in my career, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”