BUNCOMBE COUNTY, NC (WSPA) – District Attorney Greg Newman announced Tuesday that Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office deputies who fired upon an armed gunman in the downtown Asheville area back in March were justified in their actions.
We reported back on March 31 that a probation officer was walking in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse when shots were fired from outside of a parked vehicle.
An officer approached the vehicle and saw what appeared to be a bullet hole in the passenger window of the SUV and the officer called 911 with a report of a possible self-inflicted wound victim, according to the release.
When the officer got closer to the vehicle, a man — later identified as Shane Tilman Kent, 29, of Asheville — popped up in the seat and the officers shouted for the man to show his hands. The man then fired at least two shots in the officer’s direction.
Radio communications also indicated that additional shots were fired by Kent from the SUV.
Sheriff’s Office deputies and Asheville Police officers responded to the scene and approached the vehicle using protection shields.
Video of the incident from Asheville Police and onlookers inside the courthouse showed that police shouted several commands for Kent to show his hands and when he refused to comply with instructions, they tried to get into the cab of the vehicle to physically take Kent into custody.
According to the release, Kent was in possession of a .9mm handgun and he reportedly tried to point the weapon at police as they tried to arrest him.
“When the gun became visible to the officers, deputies Ernst and Robinson fired at Kent from both the front of the vehicle and the passenger side of the card,” according to the release.
Kent was pronounced dead at the scene.
We reported earlier that Kent was reportedly known to law enforcement.
In a news release Tuesday, Newman, while a district attorney for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties, was asked to review the case by Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams since Williams witnessed the incident and was a potential witness.
“I have met with the NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agents who conducted the investigation of this event. Following my meeting with them, as well as my review of their interviews and video tapes, it is clear that Deputies Ernst and Robinson performed their duties admirably and within the guidelines for North Carolina peace officers,” Newman said. “There is absolutely no violation of North Carolina law by these officers and I commend Ernst and Robinson, and the many other Buncombe County deputies and Asheville Police officers, for bringing this significant threat to public safety to a successful conclusion. It is unfortunate when our law enforcement officers must use force to restore order, but in this situation, no other choice was available.”
“I spoke personally with Sheriff Miller last week and discussed my findings with him. I recommended that the two deputies be cleared for active service. Naturally, the return to active duty will be determined by the sheriff,” Newman added.
“It is important to note that if this was a ‘regular’ day, in other words pre-coronavirus, there would have been hundreds of people in this area,” Newman said. “I have no doubt that others may have died. The SBI determined that Kent shot the 9mm pistol 10 times and the gun was still loaded with two rounds. The fact that this situation was resolved with minimal injury to officers and limited loss of life is a tribute to the great law enforcement work on March 31st. These men and women are to be commended for the way they performed their duties.”
According to the release, law enforcement is still unsure why Kent was inside of a Chevrolet Avalanche that belonged to a juvenile justice officer, who thought he had locked the vehicle earlier that morning when arriving at work.
The firearm used in the shooting also belonged to the juvenile justice officer, and was stored in the glove box of the vehicle.
“I have only limited information about Mr. Kent and I do not want to say anything that may further upset or embarrass his family,” Newman said. “No one really has an explanation for why Kent did what he did. What is clear is that he was given multiple opportunities to drop the gun and show his hands. Had he just done those two things, he would be alive today. Very sad and tragic, but the officers and deputies did what was necessary to protect the public.”