Fatal shooting in Boiling Spring Lakes ‘legally justified’

Shooting
Boiling Spring Lakes shooting (Photo: Matthew Huddleston / WWAY)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WWAY) — The District Attorney’s office has labeled a fatal shooting in Boiling Spring Lakes “legally justified” because an argument and struggle over a gun led to the shooting.

On January 6th around 7:01 p.m. the Brunswick County 911 Center received a call for service to Swain Street in Bolivia saying that Jerimiah Smith had been assaulted by Chis Manus and needed medical treatment. Jeffrey Smith, the father of Jerimiah Smith, later contacted 911 to tell them that he saw the men responsible for the assault of his son — Chris Manus and Hiram Jay Willetts — exit a truck at 150 Windmere Drive.

Smith was parked on a public road with his driver’s window down across the street from 150 Windmere Drive on the phone with 911 when Willetts jabbed the barrel of a shotgun into his head, causing a cut over his eyebrow. A struggle ensued over the shotgun. While struggling with the shotgun, Jeffrey Smith was able to pull his 9mm handgun from the center console and fired three times., with one hitting Willets in the head.

Smith told 911 he was scared and left the scene, returning when law enforcement officers arrived.

District Attorney Jon David says Smith will not be criminally charged.

“In the final analysis, the use of lethal defensive force in this case was legally justified; however, that is far different than concluding that this is a desirable outcome,” said District Attorney Jon David. “I want to encourage our citizens to report crimes to law-enforcement and trust the process, rather than taking self-help. The death of Mr. Willets is a tragedy which could have been prevented had law-enforcement been given the opportunity to do their jobs.”

The District Attorney’s office says that under North Carolina law, “[t]he lawful occupant of a… motor vehicle… is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm to himself…when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to another if both of the following apply: (1) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a …motor vehicle,… or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the …motor vehicle…. (2) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.”

The District Attorney’s office says Smith could not have known what what Willetts was intending when confronting him. Because of that and because Smith was located in his motor vehicle on a public street at the time of the incident, the District Attorney’s office says Smith’s use of deadly force was entirely reasonable under the circumstances.

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