A 74-year-old North Carolina veteran was fatally shot Saturday by a police officer who entered the man’s home in the process of a welfare check, officials said recently.
The Gaston Gazette reports Gastonia Police officer Josh Lefevers is now on paid administrative leave as authorities investigate the death of James Howard Allen.
Lefevers visited the man’s home Saturday at the request of family members in nearby Anson County. Allen had recently undergone heart surgery and his family was reportedly concerned for his well-being.
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said in a recent news conference that Lefevers first knocked on the door around 10 p.m. but no one answered.
An hour later the same family members requested that emergency personnel visit the home because they feared Allen might have died. Lefevers returned to the home with members of the Gastonia Fire Department and county EMS personnel.
“A decision was made to enter the house, concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance,” Helton said.
Lefevers entered the home through the back door and announced his presence, Helton said. Once inside, he reportedly encountered Allen who was holding a handgun.
“Announcements were made that police were on scene, he was challenged to lay the gun down. The gun was pointed at direction of officers and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him,” Helton said, according to a WSOC News story.
Allen’s sister, Mary Battle, said she heard the heartbreaking news of her brother’s death on the television while she was getting ready for church Sunday.
“Maybe the police was frightened, maybe they were. I don't know, but he wouldn't hurt a fly,” she told WSOC.
Her husband, Robert Battle, said he understood why the elderly man had a gun in his hand.
"You kicked the man's door in. He's disoriented and he's in his own house, privacy of his own home; my first reaction would be to grab a gun, too," he said.
The State Bureau of Investigation will conduct an investigation into the shooting.
The Gastonia Police will also conduct an internal investigation. Lefevers will remain on administrative leave until both investigations are concluded.
The findings of the investigations will then be handed over to the Gaston County District Attorney.
Lefevers has been with the city’s police department since 2012.