State officials in North Carolina have launched an investigation after a police officer in Gastonia shot and killed a 74-year-old man while performing a welfare check.
Gastonia police Chief Robert Helton explained at a press conference on Sunday that a family member had asked officers to check on James Howard Allen on Saturday afternoon, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Helton said that Allen’s family had asked for the welfare check because the 74-year-old veteran had recently undergone surgery.
An officer first visited Allen’s home at 10:20 p.m. on Saturday, but there was no answer.
Gastonia police then contacted the Gastonia Fire Department and Gaston Emergency Medical Services at 11:30 p.m. and a “decision was made to enter the house, concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance,” Helton said.
According to the chief, Gastonia police Officer Josh Lefevers announced himself before coming through the backdoor of the home, but Allen was pointing a gun at officers when they entered.
“He was challenged to lower the gun down,” Helton insisted. “The gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him.”
The shooting left Allen’s family demanding answers.
“(He) probably woke up, someone’s breaking in on me, so when you’re by yourself you try to protect yourself,” Allen’s brother-in-law, Robert Battle, told WSOC.
Otis Thompson, a friend of Allen’s, said that his first reaction would have been to “grab a gun too.”
“You kicked the man’s door in,” Thompson remarked. “He’s disoriented and he’s in his own house, privacy of his own home.”
Sister Mary Battle said that she understood that police were probably frightened, but she pointed that her brother “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Helton told reporters that the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation had been asked to investigate the shooting. The Gastonia Police Department followed its standard procedure for officer involved shootings and placed Lefevers on administrative leave.