A Scotland Neck police officer has been put on administrative leave and the town’s mayor and police chief have called for a state investigation following the death of a Halifax County man Tuesday, who was shocked by police with a stun gun Monday.
Mayor James Mills told The Daily Herald he was first notified of Roger Anthony’s death around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday when a friend in the community called and asked if he heard (local police) “Tasered” Anthony.
WRAL reported Anthony was taken to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, where he was declared brain dead, according to his sister Gladys Freeman. He was taken off life support on Tuesday, the WRAL report said.
Sharon Artis, of the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office, said an autopsy was performed on Anthony, but so far no cause of death has been determined.
“We are waiting on test results,” Artis said.
The test results include toxicology, Artis said, and other tests. No time frame for release is known, but the results could take three months, she said.
“From what I know of the situation ... this looks mighty suspicious,” Mills told The Daily Herald. “This was a man (Anthony) that was known for his gentleness and his meekness. He had a great and honorable reputation in our community. He had health problems, difficulty hearing, seizures and other health issues. It is inconceivable to us that he posed any threat to anyone. We’re waiting for the results of the investigation.”
Police Chief Joe Williams told The Daily Herald the officer involved in Monday’s stun gun incident, John Turner, has been placed on administrative leave.
“I sent him home on paid leave until the outcome of the investigation,” Williams said.
When asked what led to Turner’s use of a stun gun on Anthony Monday, Williams told the newspaper his officer was answering a call for service but would not elaborate.
“At this particular time, we are preparing everything to turn over to the SBI,” Williams said.
“That is kind of where I am going to leave it at for this particular moment. It is an ongoing investigation. I have turned it over to the SBI to let them do an intensive investigation. Because it involves one of my officers, I think that is the most appropriate thing to do under the circumstances. I don’t think we need to investigate things of that nature in house. It should be an outside agency.”
Williams said he was aware Anthony was hospitalized after his encounter with police, adding he was told of Anthony’s death Tuesday afternoon.
Mills said he was dismayed when he learned of the circumstances behind Anthony’s death.
“We are feeling this looks mighty bad right now,” Mills said.
“(News of Anthony’s death) saddened me and many members of our community that know of him. Our condolences go out to the family. Not being a member of the family, I really understand their concerns. It is perfectly understandable for them to be concerned in this manner.
“They need to pursue whatever legal recourse they have in this matter. If I was a family member, that is what I would do, and I would not want any less for them than I would want for myself.”
WRAL reported when Turner met Anthony Monday, the suspect continued to ride a bicycle even after the officer briefly put on his sirens and lights and yelled out of the window for him to stop.
According to the report “Williams said Turner then saw Anthony take something out his pocket and put it into his mouth.
At that time, Turner got out of the car and yelled for Anthony to stop. When Anthony didn’t stop, the officer used a stun gun on him, causing him to fall off of his bike.”
Leonard Bunting, who will be sworn in as Scotland Neck Mayor Dec. 20, said he does not know anything about the incident other than that it happened.
When asked whether or not he believes an SBI investigation should be done, Bunting responded with no knowledge of the situation, he can’t say one way or the other.
“It’s a tragic thing to have happened,” he said. “I hate it happened. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Halifax County District Attorney Melissa Pelfrey did not immediately respond to phone and email messages for comment this morning.
Officials at the State Bureau of Investigation referred The Daily Herald to Noelle Talley, public information officer for Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Talley emailed The Daily Herald this morning, confirming the SBI is involved at the request of local officials.
— Staff writers Roger Bell and Della Rose contributed to this story.