CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - An ambush outside Charlotte-Mecklenburg police headquarters late Thursday night raises questions about the safety of officers and those who are around the building.
Police said they were briefing in the parking lot between the law enforcement center and the CMPD parking deck when they were shot at multiple times. Several officers returned fire, police said. Jonathan Bennett, the suspect, was shot and taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police say.
Bennett, 23, was wanted in the death of 24-year-old Brittany White, his girlfriend and the mother of his 2-month-old daughter.
"He ambushed us, he shot at us," CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney said in a press briefing early Friday morning. At least five bullet holes could be seen at the entrance of the CMPD headquarters following the deadly shooting.
"It's obvious he knew we were looking for him. Here's what I'll tell you, times like this make you appreciate people who voluntary put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Unfortunately, some use that against us," Putney said.
When asked about the security of CMPD's headquarters, Putney replied, "It's a public building." "We're going to have to think about how we can keep ourselves safe within it. As far as our parking lot, if somebody wanted to ambush one of us they can do that virtually anywhere," Putney said.
WBTV's Security Analyst Karl De La Guerra said that it is "extremely rare" based on national statistics to have a shooting at a police department's doorstep.
"However, you have to look at what might of been going through the mind of the suspect at the time," De La Guerra said. "He knew police were looking for him. Instead of the police coming to him, he went to them, with very regrettable consequences."
When asked why Bennett would possibly want to target CMPD headquarters, De La Guerra said a motivating factor may of been that he was wanted in a homicide investigation.
"At the time this incident occurred, there was an investigation going on against him, looking for him. So, instead of the police coming out to find him and finishing possibly on their terms, he decided he wanted to go and finish it on his."
It is unclear whether this officer-involved shooting was a "suicide by cop" incident.
"As Chief Putney said, this is an ambush and by nature of an ambush the attacker is the one that picks the location, the time and the method of attack. So, there is very little that can be done to protect yourself against a true ambush like this," De La Guerra said. "However, the same thing applies to police officers as we tell the general public. It's situational awareness - be aware of your surroundings - but again very little can be done to protect yourself from an ambush."
De La Guerra also says the the security CMPD has in place at their buildings is adequate. He says restricting public access is just not realistic.
"What they have down there is adequate at this point. Ballistic glass, cameras, car blocks," said De La Guerra. "Putting walls, putting barricades, putting things like that up around police headquarters is not the visual that a community should have of their local police department."
An officer involved in the shooting, identified by police Friday as Casey Shue, was shot in the leg and taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
"Two CMPD officers and two probation officers fired their weapons during this incident," CMPD said. Those officers have been identified by police as Jeffrey Zederbaum and Jared Decker.
"Its a dangerous job, not everyone is willing to do it. And those that do, I'm humbled to be a part of this profession," Putney said.
Investigators believe Bennett shot and killed White and then took his 2-month-old daughter with him when he left the scene in west Charlotte Thursday afternoon.
The incident happened before 2 p.m. on the 4100 block of Carlyle Drive, which is off of Alleghany Street near Wilkinson Boulevard. Officers said White was found dead with a gunshot wound.
A source close to the investigation said that Bennett changed the license plate on his vehicle before going to the law enforcement center.
Police said an Amber Alert was being issued for the 2-month-old, Journei Bennett, before she was found. Officials say a second child was found unharmed at the scene.
A neighbor near the scene said he heard about five gunshots, then saw police cars racing toward the scene. There is no word on what may have led to the incident.
Records from the Mecklenburg County Jail show that Bennett was previously arrested for communicating threats and assault on a female.
The Internal Affairs Bureau will conduct a separate investigation to determine whether CMPD policies and procedures were properly followed, which is standard protocol for an officer-involved shooting.
The officers involved were placed on administrative leave.
There has been an outpouring of support for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers on social media since the deadly shooting.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call detectives at 704-432-TIPS or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.
White's killing marks Charlotte's first homicide of 2018.