First Posted: 1/15/2009
RED SPRINGS - The girlfriend of a man who was killed after leading authorities on a high-speed chase say police were not justified in shooting him. But police say Stevie Lynn Chavis left them little choice after pointing what appeared to be a gun at officers.
Stevie Lynn Chavis, 33, was shot in the face after he pointed what appeared to be a gun at Officer Ricky Brewington. A nail gun was found near where Chavis was shot.
The deadly ending was triggered Thursday afternoon when an officer responded to a disturbance call between Chavis and his girlfriend, Betty Oxendine. Oxendine, 38, said Chavis had come to see her at her job on Edinborough Avenue in Red Springs about 1:50 p.m. She said Chavis appeared to be upset, but she did not know why.
“He wanted me to get into the car and he started getting loud,” Oxendine said. “He wasn't acting right. I got in the car and tried to talk to him.”
She said a homeowner dialed 911 and reported a domestic situation and a possible car theft. Officer Jerry Mitchell responded to the call.
“(Oxendine) was hollering at Stevie when the officers arrived,” said J.D. Chavis, a Red Springs police detective. “Then (Stevie) started yelling obscenities at the officers.”
When Mitchell approached Stevie Chavis, he drove away. The chase, which reached speeds up to 90 mph, ended seven miles later on Old Wire Road in Hoke County. Brewington told investigators that Chavis repeatedly pointed what looked like a gun out the window.
When Chavis lost control, Brewington pulled his car up to the driver's side.
“(Chavis) jerked his hand up and Brewington shot him,” Detective J.D. Chavis said. “It happened so fast that he shot him with his left hand. Brewington is right-handed.”
Brewington got out of his car and Chavis pressed the gas. Brewington grabbed the steering wheel and the car was put in park. About that time Mitchell and a Hoke County sheriff's deputy drove up.
“Stevie got out of the car and started tussling with the officers,” Detective Chavis said. “Afterward they attempted to stop the bleeding.”
The investigation was turned over to the state Bureau of Investigation, which is common whenever an officer fires his weapon. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jay Tilley declined to say whether a nail or any evidence was taken from the scene. But he did give the circumstances under which officers are trained to shoot suspects.
“An officer may use deadly force when he thinks his life or others around him are in imminent danger,” Tilley said.
After the investigation, District Attorney Johnson Britt will decide whether Brewington used excessive force.
Oxendine said she doesn't understand how Brewington mistook the nail gun for a handgun.
“The nail gun is the size of a jar at the bottom of it,” she said.
“That was wrong,'' she said. “Why did they have to shoot him in the face? They could have shot him in the arm. I can't figure it out.”
Tilley said the investigation could take a month or longer.
“There are a lot of variables that will determine how long it will take,” Tilley said. “It depends on what has to be sent to the laboratory for analysis and medical records. We plan to wrap up the bulk of the investigation in the next few days.”
An autopsy was performed Friday morning. Brewington will remain on paid administrative leave until an investigation is complete. He has worked for the Red Springs Police Department for about 20 years. He is a former Pembroke officer.
“He is taking it pretty tough,” Detective J.D. Chavis said. “Several officers stayed around until 10 p.m. (Thursday) talking with him.”
Stevie Chavis had a minor criminal record, with a breaking and entering, traffic infractions and failure to appear, but nothing on his record indicated violence.