Sheriff provides details of Friday night checkpoint shooting

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Submitted: Tue, 06/18/2013 - 3:25am
Updated: Fri, 03/14/2014 - 3:26pm

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Law enforcement is finally releasing details about a shooting Friday night at a DWI checkpoint in Leland.

Today the Brunswick County Sheriff described what happened that left two men injured and facing charges and seven deputies from two counties under investigation.

The SBI is investigating the shooting as the agencies involved conduct their own internal reviews.

Jerry Onasis Melvin is behind bars while Antoine Levar Graham is recovering in the hospital after deputies shot him several times Friday night.

Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram says the suspects in a Lincoln Navigator came speeding toward deputies running the DWI checkpoint a little before midnight.

Ingram says the deputies feared for their lives.

“The officers at the scene perceived their lives to be in danger or the lives of their fellow officers to be in danger,” Ingram said.

Four deputies from the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office and three from New Hanover County opened fire to try to stop the car.

“The vehicle proceeded through the median and into the northbound lane of 17,” Ingram said.

That’s when Sheriff Ingram says one of the suspects jumped out of the car. The chase continued on to US 74/76 toward Wilmington.

“They certainly didn’t want it to get into the City of Wilmington and possibly kill people with the crowds being what it is at that time,” Ingram said.

Next deputies rammed the SUV and spun it around. A Brunswick County deputy approached the vehicle, and fired more shots.

“They were shooting to stop the threat against them,” Ingram said.

The four deputies from Brunswick County are assigned to administrative duties while the SBI investigates. The three New Hanover County deputies have been placed on administrative leave with pay.

There was a bullet hole in a New Hanover County patrol car, but Ingram says he cannot confirm at this time if the suspects were firing back at deputies.

Melvin and Graham face several charges, including assault with a deadly weapon.


  • John Jones says:

    Without a doubt creating a scenario that regularly leads to high speed police chases and discharge of firearms on busy public roadways is more dangerous.

  • John Jones says:

    These check points are dangerous not to mention unconstitutional ( yes I know this has been upheld both ways by the courts). This is only one of many high speed chases I have heard of this year in Brunswick county alone resulting from a check point. Only this time we have gun fire at the check point where other citizens have been stopped and placed in danger. There is a proper way to catch criminals but pressuring them on public road ways while they are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle will only result in more lives being put in danger. I am glad no officers or by standers where hurt during this mess but unfortunately it is only a matter of time until someone innocent gets caught by a stray bullet or hit by a fleeing car. I have no sympathy for the fleeing suspects but they did exactly what should be expected of any criminal in a similar scenario. I also have not read reports of gun fire coming from the suspects or their vehicle so this raises the question of protocol. I for one know I do not what to be shot because a cop thinks he might be in danger. A firearm is deadly force. Was the use of deadly force necessary and justified according to the procedures outlined in the police manual?

  • John Jones says:

    I completely agree. I have seen nothing yet stating the officers RETURNED fire. Whats next shooting fleeing shop lifters running out the front door of Walmart. If they cannot use guns responsibly only give them tasers. Police in other countries do their jobs without carrying lethal force. That may be the only way to rain this kind of police violence in. If deadly force is needed they can always call in a specially trained swat team. It seems today our cops have more weapons training than they do lew and constitutional training and support of the law and citizen rights is the only reason to have cops. Yes it can be a dangerous job but they know that going into it, if you cant take the heat find another line of work. I feel we are headed to a police state. “Protect and Serve” has become “Tax and Harass”. Lets do away with with these dangerouse, unprotective, unconstitutional road blocks requiring papers to move freely within our country. If it is found that protocol was not followed for the use of deadly force every officer that pulled a trigger needs to have his weapon removed from his person. You can be guaranteed that is what would be done to a citizen as the minimum.

  • Factual says:

    It’s nothing about after these guys were stopped, it’s about when they were forced to stop. Nowhere did it state these guys were under the influence. That would have been a simple trip to jail, a fine, court and loss of license. The problem was trying to run officers over with a vehicle. If you don’t have anything to hide, why run? Known drug dealers or not, they know the law as good as the law and know there is nothing they can do just for “knowing” they are drug dealers UNLESS they have something on them.

  • Think About It says:

    What’s more dangerous, someone under the influence driving and taking a chance of harming/killing themselves and inncoent others on the road or 2 thugs being taken care of by the police like they deserved?

  • Cam says:

    We love this county but i have seen to much gun use by officers. Shoot out tires? Yes. Shoot to kill a person running a road block? No.

  • Factual says:

    Not a single person would let 2 known drug dealers, with guns, speed TOWARDS them with intent to cause harm without doing something. How about get your facts straight before you make unknowledgable posts…you asked “but what about the lives of the other innocent people driving on that road when the cops opened fire into oncoming traffic” but failed to remember this was a CHECK POINT and the other cars were stopped.

    Had they also stopped, much less not tried to RUN officers over, this would have never happened. Place blame where it is due. Obey the law and all is well. These guys intentionally tried to harm officers and as a direct effect, the innocent bystanders you mention who were STOPPED at the checkpoint. Get real!

  • Guest123123 says:

    Every cop turned around and started unloading like super trigger happy as if their training was coming into full effect and they were being able to utilize it,” said Cleerdin. “Everybody was just blasting this car to pieces. It was absolutely terrifying.”

    They were stunned with what was happening, as officers reportedly shot dozens of rounds – in the direction on-coming traffic.

    “Cops are shooting from the front of the car, back into the rest of the on-coming traffic to the check point, into the rest of the innocent civilians down the road,” said Cleerdin.

    Cleerdin says he believes the officers acted with no regard for public safety.

    “It was way beyond reckless,” said Cleerdin. “I couldn’t believe it. These are professional people, professional officers, and they’re training, they’re highly trained and they’re not supposed to do stuff like that.”

    Officials with the sheriff’s office are keeping tight lipped about the incident. No one will tell us who shot the two suspects, or what even led up to the shooting.

    “I could understand why they wouldn’t come out with an explanation as to what happened after seeing what we saw,” said Cleerdin. “It looked like every officer there did not follow protocol in any way, shape, or form

  • Cop says:

    Proper protocol in all States is to have the car pass thru and than ensue a chase with multiple cars which should of been done. With innocent bystanders including myself at the checkpoint THERE IS NO WAY SHOTS SHOULD BE FIRED UNLESS FIRED UPON common rule and training 101 .
    I was at the checkpoint and took cover praying no bullets came thru my car.I carried a badge for 17 years and find this area of Brunswick County has the most unprofessional checkpoints standards .Personally I think they are a joke when they ask where you coming from and where you going ?
    So remember officers next time a car refuses to stop and speeds by that is what the additional officers are for with the police cars they follow and attempt to stop the veichle away from innocent people coming out of Walmart.

  • Guest123123 says:

    Ok why if the suspect had no gun once the vehicle was stopped and approached by law enforcement would you continue to shoot at the vehicle or suspect. This is crazy folks. Reminds me of one of my favorite all time movies Dirty Harry where Clint just unloads his 44 into the vehicle of the bank robbers while he is standing in the middle of the road.

  • Guest7976 says:

    I find it amazing that to many of you it does not matter that these thugs came through the checkpoint and almost hit officers with their vehicle, which can be more deadly than a gun. Did it ever occur to you that these same officers are the ones you call on when you feel threatened or in harms way? Their job is to protect and serve, which is exactly what they were doing.

    It is not like these were innocent people who the officers drew their weapons on and fired upon. These two men are in the wrong, not the officers. If they had not made the choice to do what they did by going through the checkpoint, then this would not be an issue. Place blame where it belongs; on the criminals, not the officers. They are just doing their job and helping to keep YOU safe!

  • charlie says:

    Their is something fishy about this. Sounds like these guys after being stopped were not under the infuence? Brunswick county sheiff dept has and have had problems starting at the top down..Little Man problems..They still live by, I want to be better than Ronald Hewett. They are proving they can’t…

  • deputy25 says:

    IF you cant stand behind the officers, why feel free to stand in front of them!!

  • Leslie says:

    Let me tell you something Guest7976….I find it amazing that you cite facts such as “these ‘thugs’ came through the checkpoint and almost hit the officers with their vehicle”. First of all that didn’t happen, if you listen to the press conference or read the article you felt the need to comment on you would have seen the following quote…”Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram says ‘the suspects in a Lincoln Navigator came speeding toward(being the operative word) deputies running the DWI checkpoint a little before midnight.” The phrase came “speeding toward the officer” confirm that the ‘thugs’, as you call them never actually reached the check point to be able to hit any of the officers with their car. The officers merely perceived their lives to be in danger as stated in his next quote…”The officers at the scene perceived their lives to be in danger or the lives of their fellow officers to be in danger,” Ingram said. That’s great they feared for their lives (which is part of the job) but what about the lives of the other innocent people driving on that road when the cops opened fire into oncoming traffic. Furthermore, when did one speeding car become more dangerous than 8 people emptying clips? Did it ever occur to you that the very officers that you are trying to defend make us feel threatened or in harms way? Not everyone calls the police or has any feeling of security when they are around! In fact the slogan should be more like Protect and Serve Myself. They don’t give two shits about the general public as so demonstrated when a line of your fair officers opened fire into oncoming traffic with complete disregard for public safety only their own perceived danger. I am all about placing blame where it belongs and there is plenty to go around for everyone. Should the young men in the Navigator have slowed down and been good boys at the checkpoint, absolutely however, does that give the cops the right to ASSUME facts and start shooting. To many problems are solved with guns first, this is not a solution. Lastly, the police don’t keep me safe, I keep me safe!

  • Guesttoo says:

    You say you’re all about placing blame where it belongs. Cool! Do that and stand behind it. The blame rests squarely on the driver(s) of the Navigator. They had control of this situation and chose to do something that no normal, rational person would do.

    These idiots are to blame for endangering themselves, the police and the public.

  • Guest123123 says:

    My first instinct would be to get the heck out of the way of the vehicle not to shoot at it. I first thought when this was reported that the officers were shot at which does not appear to be the case. If you shoot the driver what happens to the vehicle and what injuries does that cause?If this all happened so quickly how would the officers know who else was in the vehicle that had nothing to do with the criminal behavior of the two men. ( Like a child )Why do you think it is the policy of many departments across the country to not engage in high speed pursuits, due to the extreme danger to the public.

    When the sheriff spoke yesterday anyone can see he was having problems explaining this. You could tell he was not even convinced in his own mind about the circumstances of events. You can always say you were in fear of your life to justify the shooting. Without a video showing the entire event we will never know for sure. The father who spoke on the news a few days ago spoke very well and gave his version of what he saw which was not very complimentary of the officers.

    It is a tough job without a doubt that no one forces them to do. You have to be able to handle the heat when the #### hits the fan. Some officers can go 30 years and never have to use their weapon. When you do take it out and use it you better be able to justify it. That is what I was always taught.

  • PublicAvenger says:

    My first instinct would be to obey lawful orders. Not to go spinning, 80 MPH, of 4000 pounds of steel, towards another man’s body. Giving my potential victim, less then 4 seconds, to react.

  • Guest123123 says:

    You are talking of the criminal I was referring to he LEO.

  • Agree says:

    I agree! They have great support and a sheriff who is honest and cleaning this county up. Sad part is tax dollars have to pay for it. If they can start making them work for their room and board, it would be a perfect system. Get the problems off the street and in jail at their OWN expense.

  • Guest4396 says:

    We are led to believe this happened quickly. Here we have 7 cops shooting at one SUV with no telling how many bystanders that have done nothing. It is a miracle the idiots didn’t shoot each other or worse an innocent person. The SUV makes a break for it across the median and the cops are already chasing it and ram it. Dang, they are some kind of fast. Also, if the suspects were fleeing, one would think the cops were behind, therefore out of harm’s way. No excuse to shoot. But heck, cops don’t seem to need an excuse to shoot at people anymore. They will most likely be found to have acted correctly. Having cops investigate cops is is always the way to get the truth.

  • Vog46 says:

    I understand you cannot report things you (or the reporter) have not verified which I expect from you, and respect you for doing….

    That said, the other media outlet IS reporting it


  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    how do you go from “tried to get a way” to… “four deputies from NBC and three from NHC opened fire to stop the car and protect themselves”?

  • Cops = mafia says:

    They say these guys trying to leave were a danger to passersby, but it was the cops who started unloading weapons into oncoming traffic. It was needless. First off, a DWI/DUI checkpoint is entirely unconstitutional and the end does not justify the means. It is an unreasonable search of all persons and property, whereby they must prove innocence to proceed. So how come seven officers are on leave? Because the “brotherhood” of law enforcement are nothing but the monopoly of force for the government.

    How come so little mention of what the deputies did, huh? Who are you trying to protect? Who does the media work for? This thug who calls himself the sheriff?

    Sounds like time for a recall, because these things happen from the top down. Watch. Not one of these bullies will lose their jobs. It’s all for show.

  • Blah says:

    You are seriously delusional and I hope that one day you actually need them.

  • Guest6546 says:

    Since you were there “but it was the cops who started unloading weapons into oncoming traffic”, how many rounds hit your car? I have yet to hear of anyone that was either injured, or had their vehicle struck by any of the rounds fired. I’m sure the whole thing was scary for for anyone in the area.

    I’m also sure that the muzzle flash was impressive for those downrange from it. If they were aiming correctly – and the lack of reports of injuries or damage indicates they were – then what they did was what needed to be done.

    These guys go through all sorts of drills in prep for this including preventing unintended injuries.

    What do you expect? Drive over cops, and they should let you go?

    “How come so little mention of what the deputies did, huh? Who are you trying to protect? Who does the media work for? This thug who calls himself the sheriff?”

    Really not a whole lot more to say about the cops. There’s an investigation. but there doesn’t appear to be any negligence given the outcome. Any casualties would be the fault of the perps.

  • Guest777 says:

    First of all, it is hard to take serious someone commenting on the police whose screen name is “cops = mafia”. As for checkpoints being unconstitutional that will be news to the Supreme Court, who have for generations upheld that checkpoints are constitutional. See Michigan State Police vs Sitz for the facts, not emotional ranting about how you may wish things to be.

  • Vog46 says:

    Another media outlet is saying that the Sheriffs noted passengers in this car tossing stuff out the window before getting to the actual checkpoint. supposedly they recovered a gun and weed from the area they were spotted doing this.
    I cannot verify this of course.
    But a car IS indeed a dangerous weapon and I feel confident that the deputies will be cleared of any wrong doing in this situation. Given that there were at least 2 representatives from the DA’s office present I suspect that the Sheriffs acted in accordance with the law and were protecting themselves and the general public by their actions.

    Good job…….as it stands now


  • Scott Pickey says:

    Vog – sheriff said there were two people in the Navagator. Coming up on the check-point they started throwing things out the window – can’t confirm gun yet – then the driver hopped in the back seat and the passenger got behind the wheel.


  • SouthEastNC says:

    You’re supposed to be working the basketball camp!

  • Guesty101 says:

    I don’t know, something smells awlfully fishy here. Given the fact that every time you turn around a local LE officer or sherrif is getting busted, removed, fired, resigning or prosecuted I now have very little faith that these officers made the right decision. I mean were all 7 in danger of being run over?? As far as the “gun” goes my step-father was a NCHP and always had a “throw gun”…I doubt that practice has change.
    Thank goodness no citizens / by-standers were killed or injured!

  • Guestwho says:

    Maybe all 7 were in danger maybe they weren’t. If just one person, LEO or bystander was endangered, all 7 would have been justified in using lethal force. You should not expect to be able to charge through a checkpoint and come out okay on the other side.

  • Guest12345 says:

    B/S, story changing, very dangerous action that should frighten any citizen, shootout at the OK CORRAL, even Ingram didn’t sound convincing.

  • Tar Heel 32 says:

    I was there and saw the entire thing! I think all this cop bashing is from the Dreggs of society anyway! The criminals got exactly what they had coming!! The only fear I had was from the idiots trying to run thru the check point. If you bleeding heart, Occupiers want to start a fund to defend these morons, Go for it!! Or better yet get in touch with Jessie or Sharpton to drum your cause!

    Never mind they both looked like fools last time they showed up for the Duke Lacrosse fiasco!
    But anyway put your money up and bail these poor souls out of jail. Let them stay with you till the trial date. Bet none of you convicted felon cowards will! Keep your mouth shut or we will let them know where you are and the welfare will cease! Lol

  • Guest123123 says:

    You should have taped it on your smartphone. Sounds like you probably still have a flip phone. Ok first I am a white conservative Rep who owns his own business and makes a pretty good buck. I have done this job and been involved in many checkpoints all across the state of NC. I have witnessed many people try to avoid the checkpoints but we always had vehicles ready and prepared for that. Im trying to think what my first reaction would have been to a vehicle trying to go through the checkpoint without stopping,shooting at the vehicle really does not come as my first thought. So many different ways to look at this. If there was video it would be a whole lot easier to judge due to placement of officers who fired and the vehicle and innocent bystanders or the motoring public.

    Im trying to also understand why would they want to run officers over with such a small amount of narcotics. Get away maybe but actual try to run them down. Just not seeing it.

    I can understand family members defending their own but do you actually think that officers do make huge mistakes daily all over the state and country. THEY DO!!

  • You'd like to know says:

    They certainly didn’t want it to get into the City of Wilmington and possibly kill people with the crowds being what it is at that time,” Ingram said.

    I’m sure that’s exactly what all of them were thinking while firing into a truck passing by them. “Feared for their life” GIVE ME A BREAK.

    If a vehicle passes you by,you’re not in danger.

    Sounds like an EXTREME abuse of power while endangering innocent lives.

    Shame on both offices.

  • Scally Wagg says:

    Something really fishy going on here.

  • PublicAvenger says:

    Two thugs refused to stop, putting the lives of several deputies in danger. A honest sheriff, with backbone, is standing behind his deputies. Who did the right thing.

    Last time I checked, a 6,0000 pound car, racing towards you, was almost as deadly as a bullet.

  • guesty says:

    Scally Wagg, where have you been?

  • Scally Wagg says:

    I’ve been living a nomadic lifestyle off the grid for the past few years. Decided to pop my head up from the underground from time to time to keep u crackas in check lol

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