DA Says Hickory Police Officers Were Justified In Killing Of Suspected Drug Dealer

UPDATE:  A district attorney says officers were justified in the shooting of a suspected drug dealer in Hickory.  District Attorney David Learner released the following statement:

On February 3, 2017, Mr. William David Whetstone, 33, was fatally wounded in Hickory by officers with the Hickory Police Department.

The shooting occurred as officers with the Special Operations Team of Hickory Police Department (HPD) were serving a high-risk search warrant at Mr. Whetstone’s residence pertaining to a drug investigation

The purpose of my review was to examine whether the shooting of Mr. Whetstone by Hickory Police Officers was lawful or unlawful. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) investigated the above referenced officer-involved shooting. The SBI expended a considerable amount of time interviewing the witnesses to this shooting, photographing the scene and collecting items of physical evidence.

Multiple body camera videos exist of the actual shooting, and they were collected and preserved by the SBI.

I have been furnished all information obtained during the SBI investigation. All witness statements, body camera videos, photographs and physical evidence were consistent.

After a review of all the evidence in this case, the following facts are apparent:

• Mr. Whetstone was involved in the sale of narcotics in the days prior to this incident and was the target of an ongoing investigation.

• As a result of the narcotics sales, HPD officers obtained a search warrant for Mr. Whetstone’s residence.

• Because officers knew that Mr. Whetstone had firearms in the house, the search warrant was served by the Hickory Police Department Special Operations Team.

• Upon entry to the residence during daylight hours, the officers clearly and loudly identified themselves as police officers with a search warrant.

• Another suspect in the residence immediately complied with the commands to get on the floor.

• The defendant was told repeatedly not to move, yet he lunged to the arm of the sofa and rammed his right hand down between the cushion and arm of the sofa.

• Officers repeatedly, loudly and clearly directed Mr. Whetstone not to move.

• Mr. Whetstone pulled a handgun out of the sofa and pointed it directly at officers who were only a few feet away.

• Officers then immediately fired their weapons, striking Mr. Whetstone multiple times.

• The entire sequence of events unfolded in just a few seconds.

The law of North Carolina recognizes the principle of self-defense, which is the inherent right to use deadly force to protect one’s self or others from death or great bodily harm.

Therefore, based upon applicable law and the facts as reported by eyewitness accounts, corroborated by the body camera footage and other physical evidence, it is my conclusion that the Hickory officers acted lawfully when shooting Mr. Whetstone on February 3, 2017.

{Previous story published on Feb. 3rd, 2017}

HICKORY, N.C. — Authorities are investigating an officer-involved shooting that happened in Hickory.  The shooting happened on 12th Street Drive NW just after 8 a.m. on Friday.

Police say they were attempting to serve a narcotics search warrant at the home when they encountered William Whetstone.

Officers say they gave Whetstone verbal commands not to move but police say he reached between the cushions of a sofa, produced a handgun and pointed it at officers.

During the altercation, police say an officer was shot in his arm and Whetstone was shot by officers.

Sgt. Rodney Harris was treated and released for the injuries he sustained in the shooting.  Whetstone was pronounced dead on the scene.

The SBI is investigating.  The officers involved have been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation, which is standard procedure.