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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Gaston County, N.C. 07/06/2009

Called to a run-of-the-mill breaking and entering, three North Carolina officers confronted a monster.

January 31, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Well before it became a national news story, last summer's killings in nearby Gaffney, S.C., were on the radar of the Gaston County (N.C.) Police Department. So on July 5 when Officer Kathryn Williamson read the latest information on the outstanding suspect in the local newspaper, she and her fellow officers in the station office ruminated about what would happen if they came across the serial killer.

Their discussion would prove to be far more than idle speculation.

Hours had passed and it was well after midnight when the call went out: a breaking and entering on Dallas-Spencer Mountain Road. Officer Jim Shaw was familiar with the address, having been there before to deal with its residents for a variety of offenses, mostly narcotics-related. But he also knew that the residents had been in custody for the better part of a year as a result of some of those offenses. So any 3 a.m. call at that address was probably a good one.

Officer Graham Kuzia arrived at the location first and quickly determined that the suspects were residents of the location. With the busy Fourth of July weekend, he initially told responding units that the situation was code four. Knowing the kind of people who resided there, however, Officer Shaw and Officer Williamson continued to roll.

Shaw and Williamson arrived at the location to find that Kuzia had a trio of individuals detained in a carport outside the darkened house. Never maintained in the greatest state, the house had fallen into an even greater state of disrepair in the absence of its owners. Foliage had taken over the property.

This Guy's Huge

Two of the three detainees-a male and a female-were immediately recognizable to Shaw as Mark and Sharon Stamey, residents of the house. A second male remained seated in a Ford Explorer parked in the driveway. Williamson contacted the man and asked him to exit the Explorer. As he did, the man's head struck the top edge of the carport hard enough that the officers collectively winced at the sound of it.

"You OK?" Williamson asked the man.

The man nodded that he was fine.

Shaw thought, It's no surprise the subject bumped into the roof of the carport. The guy's huge.

Shaw put the man at about 6-feet 7-inches, the better part of 300 pounds, and judging by his behavior, drunk. For the moment, the three officers were more concerned with what the two known offenders were doing outside their residence at that hour in the morning.

The Stameys explained that they'd recently been released from custody and were just moving stuff into the house. A warrant check showed they were clear of any wants or warrants and, having patted them down without incident, the officers decided to let them go inside their residence.

Their seemingly intoxicated friend was still a bit of a cipher, staggering and nearly falling a few times as he headed for the house. The officers didn't have anything on him, and the idea of saddling themselves with a drunk when they could let the guy go inside and sleep it off wasn't high on their To Do list.

Still, Williamson wanted to take another look at the huge, drunk guy. She knew that people, even seriously inebriated people, normally didn't hesitate to acknowledge their name and birthdates. When pressed for his full name, the man vacillated and finally volunteered his middle name as "Terry."

Running the name he'd given her, Williamson got a list of near hits, among them a 41-year-old "Patrick Burris" with a felony probation violation. Burris' description: 6 feet 7 inches, 280 pounds.

Something didn't seem right.

Wake Up

As Williamson got on the radio to advise their sergeant of a possible felony suspect at the location, Shaw and Kuzia approached the front door. Shaw knocked. No answer.

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