JONESVILLE — The manhunt is over for a suspected shooter who law enforcement says exchanged gunfire with Wilkes County deputies, injuring one deputy and two civilians, early Monday morning.
Long after the ordeal ended, officers in full camouflage remained on the scene, giving the quiet neighborhood an “eerie feel,” according to some neighbors.
According to the police report, on Monday a report was made to Wilkes 911 about shots being fired at the residence of 775 North River Ridge Road. Upon arrival at the scene, officers were fired upon. Three victims were taken to area hospitals for treatment. The suspect was shot by law enforcement and died at the scene. A home and three vehicles belonging to Kent Suddreth were destroyed by fire.
According to information from the State Bureau of Investigation, James Monroe Barrett, 60, of 3659 Bethel Road, Jonesville, exchanged gunfire with deputies responding to a domestic dispute involving Barrett around 5:50 a.m. Officials also believe Barrett lit fire to a house and three vehicles before retreating to the woods, with law enforcement in pursuit.
Barrett was reported dead at the scene. Wilkes County Operations Major Chief Deputy David Carson reported that Barrett “was shot and killed by law enforcement this morning after exchanging fire with them.”
In a press conference with Carson, he reported that deputies were fired upon once they arrived at the scene. Wilkes Sgt. Steven Russell, a 12-year veteran with the force, sustained injuries before being airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
In an update released on Tuesday afternoon, Carson reported that “Sgt. Russell is expected to be released from the hospital today.”
Civilians injured during the incident include Zachary Hill Myers, 38, of 3436 Bethel Road, and Kent Suddreth, 50, of 775 N. River Ridge Road, who are reportedly in stable condition. According to 911 calls released by the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Department, Suddreth reported to the dispatcher that he had been injured in the stomach. In a later call, Myers reported that he appeared to have been shot in the back of the head when checking in on his neighbor and identified the shooter, Barrett, by his vehicle at the scene.
Kimberly Martinez, who lives near the scene where the incident occurred, reported hearing gunshots in bursts of rapid succession from 6 a.m. until the ordeal was over at 10:40 a.m. “I got back to my house and saw fire trucks and ambulances and then about 30 police cars rolled up,” Martinez said. “It was very scary, especially when you don’t know what’s going on or where the shooter is.”
At one point Martinez witnessed armored vehicles coming into the area, which were reportedly fired upon according to Carson. “They were fired rapidly,” said Martinez, who heard the shots while she remained at her home through the ordeal. “My dad came up and evacuated my mom because she’s on oxygen, but me and my kids stayed here.”
Dark smoke from the house fire could be seen against a backdrop of overcast skies Monday morning from where the reported shooting occurred.
The incident occurred between Clingman and Jonesville, and much of Bethel Road was blocked to traffic during the manhunt.
Merry Lowe, who owns about 60 acres neighboring where the incident occurred, said Monday afternoon that she heard ambulances about 6 a.m. “I was leaving headed to work and when they told me what was happening, I went back and got my mom out and brought her with me,” she said.
“My husband refused to leave because he was burning places,” Lowe added, noting that at one point the suspect was on their property and they were afraid he’d follow their trail to the river. “I heard from a neighbor they were sending some of the neighbors out in armored cars because there are a lot of elderly people in the neighborhood.
“It was very scary,” she said, adding that the whole community is upset about the injuries to the victims.
While there are rumors that the incident involved hostages, Wilkes sheriff’s officials said there was no hostage situation.
According to North Carolina Department of Public Safety records, Barrett was convicted for communicating threats on Feb. 13, 2011, and cited again on Feb. 18, 2011, for violation of local ordinance. Other convictions include possession of firearm by felon and two misdemeanors in 2009 and felony possession of scheduled VI drugs in 1992.
Due to the fact that this is an officer involved shooting, the North Carolina SBI will be investigating this case.
Karen Holbrook can be reached at 336-258-4059 or on Twitter @KarenHolbrook00.