Names of Gaston Co. officers in fatal veteran shooting released

Veteran dead after police involved shooting in Gaston County
Published: Mar. 16, 2015 at 10:13 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2015 at 10:13 PM EDT
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Kristen Hampton | WBTV
Kristen Hampton | WBTV

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The Gaston County Police Department released the names of the officers involved in a shooting that killed a man living with post-traumatic stress disorder on March 16.

Sergeant J.E. Knupp, Sergeant W.P. Downey, officer T.R. Earl, and officer A.O. Holder were those involved in the shooting death of William Dean Poole.

Family members and neighbors say William Dean Poole was a gentle man who served his country.

They're having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Poole was shot by Gaston County police officers Monday evening.

The officers responded to the home on Wedowee Lane after they got a report from the Veterans Crisis Hotline that Poole could harm himself or others, said Chief James Bouie.

The crisis hotline reporter told police that Poole said he planned to kill himself and "not to send anyone to his residence because it would not end well," according to the official report.

The caller also told police that Poole had been "walking around the previous two nights with a .357 handgun."

At 5:25 p.m., four Gaston County police officers arrived at the home and found Poole sitting on a lawnmower in his yard. The officer approached Poole, who they say pulled out a firearm and fired multiple times.

The four officers returned fire, fatally wounding Poole. The officers were not injured. Special Agent in Charge Tony Underwood, with the SBI, said the officers would be interviewed that Wednesday. He could not confirm or deny as of Tuesday afternoon, whether Poole fired his gun.

Neighbors who witnessed the shooting said they saw Poole raise his hand, but that they didn't see him shoot at police.

Neighbor J.C. Dowell said he witnessed the shooting from his front porch a few yards away. He said he is confident that he never saw Poole fire any shots.

Poole's son-in-law, Robert Hinson said that he was on the phone with Poole moments before the shooting. He said Poole, who lives a couple of trailers away, said he was coming to visit his grandchildren.

Hinson said as he hung up the phone, he heard several loud shots. He said he then went outside and saw Poole lying on the ground with four officers backing away.

Hinson said Poole, a Navy veteran who served in Beirut, was suffering from PTSD.

"He was a real laid-back man. He liked to sit and talk about military things," Hinson said. "He never showed any type of behavior that something bad is going to happen."

Poole's relatives admitted that he did own a gun, but say Poole wouldn't have hurt the officers.

Hinson believes the shooting was excessive.

"And whether he tried to point it or not, four officers, just not even try to reason with a man, and just open fire. It seemed a little excessive," said Hinson.

All four officers involved were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Gaston County Police Department does not use body cameras or dash cameras, so there is no video evidence of the shooting.

Captain W.S. Melton, with the Department, said all officers receive mental health training to try and deescalate situations when citizens are in distress.

Knupp has 19 years of experience, Downey has 18, Early has 14, and Holder has 9 years of law enforcement experience, according to the Gaston County Police Department.

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