Victims ID'd, two dead, two officers wounded in Gaston County sh - | WBTV Charlotte

Victims ID'd, two dead, two officers wounded in Gaston County shootings

(John Sparks | WBTV) (John Sparks | WBTV)

Gaston County Police are trying to figure out what led a gunman to allegedly kill a man, wound a woman, get into a gunfight with police and wound two officers. That man was then shot and killed.

Police say their initial investigation shows the gunman died when between four and seven officers returned fire. 

The two officers, who were shot in their legs, were transported to CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia. They were reportedly alert and talking, early Sunday morning.

One officer has since been released from the hospital, but may need further medical procedures. The second officer had surgery Sunday and was recovering at the hospital.

Police said it all started Saturday night at approximately 9:18 pm when they received a call from a home on Balsam Court, near Greenwood Drive in Gastonia.

Investigators said "the caller reported a male subject was in the home with a gun. The caller then reported his dad had been shot and the suspect was still in the house."

Police started to receive several other 911 calls concerning an active shooter on Greenwood Drive.

A woman who works in a nearby convenience store said she could see police presence mounting.

"Cops and ambulances started pulling up in the parking lot," she said. "And then next thing you know like seven or eight cops over here started getting guns out their trunks and everything."

Gaston County Police Acting Chief Joseph Ramey said when police arrived, the alleged gunman, identified as Jeffrey Clyde Wilkes, was outside a residence "holding a shotgun and wearing a pistol."

"Upon arrival, officers were confronted with a suspect who was armed," Ramey said. "That suspect engaged officers. Two officers were shot and have non life threatening injuries."

The worker in the convenience store said "we heard about 10 to 15 rounds of shots go off. It was loud, that's for sure. Boom boom boom boom."

Police said Charles Dean Thompson, a retired Gaston County police officer, was found shot to death on Balsam Court. Thompson retired from the Gaston County Police Department in 1995, after five years of service. 

Officers say a woman, later identified as Debra Maness Childress, was located at another home on Greenwood Drive. Police said she was shot at the Balsam Court home and went to a neighbor's house. She was taken to CaroMont Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. 

Police are not saying the relationship between the victims and Wilkes, but said that he and Childress shared the same address on Greenwood Drive. A family member told WBTV's Coleen Harry Wilkes and Childress were in an on again, off again relationship.

Chief Ramey said one of the wounded officers is a veteran; and the other is "fairly young." Ramey said he couldn't recall their exact years of service. 

Chief Ramey said "it's very disturbing when you have men and women that you're close to, that you appreciate the hard work they do day in and day out - to hear they've been shot."

He said their "concern was making sure the officers as well as the other victims are okay."

"I know from the last 18 months police have been under the microscope. Officer involved shootings are a difficult thing to follow right at the moment for us but our officers are professionals," he continued. "They acted professionally in this incident here."

Police say there are three separate investigations into the shootings.

Gaston County police say they are investigating the shooting death of Thompson and the attempted murder of Childress. The N.C State Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate the officer-involved shooting. Gaston County Police Professional Standards Unit will conduct a parallel investigation to see if policies and procedures were followed. 

Police said the Gaston County officers involved in the shooting have been placed on Administrative Leave with pay pending the completion of the investigation.

Anyone with information concerning this incident is asked to contact the Gaston County Police Department at 704-866-3320 or Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000.   

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