Richard Berry, the man accused of shooting three Havelock police officers Thursday, had his first appearance in Craven County District Court on Friday morning.
Berry, 60, has been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
The officers’ injuries were not life-threatening after they were shot at a house at 407 Webb Blvd. in Havelock while responding to what they thought was a suicide attempt.
The three police officers, Sgt. Jim Fahnestock, Lt. Brian Borton and Officer Loren Boone, were each shot in the hand. Borton and Boone were treated and released from CarolinaEast Medical Center on Thursday, while Fahnestock required surgery and stayed overnight. He was listed in good condition but was expected to be released from the hospital on Friday, according to Havelock authorities.
Berry was also injured and treated at CarolinaEast Medical Center and then released on Thursday into the custody of authorities.
Berry slowly shuffled into the courtroom at 10 a.m. Friday, handcuffed, wearing an orange jumpsuit and kept his eyes focused on the floor.
Judge Karen Alexander asked Berry if he had copies of all the court paperwork and if he understood the charges.
Since Berry was charged with two Class C felonies, Alexander said he was facing a maximum of nearly 20 years in prison if convicted.
Berry said he did not have the paperwork and did not understand the charges.
He was also asked if he had an attorney to represent him.
“I can only represent myself,” Berry said.
Alexander ordered Berry to the N.C. Department of Corrections medical unit for safe keeping, and set his next court appearance for March 1.
Thomas said the report from Craven County Jail, where Berry was being held after he was released from CarolinaEast Medical Center, recommended he be kept at DOC for safe keeping, partly because he threatened to harm himself. But Thomas didn’t have any specific details.
Thomas said he also asked that Berry be kept in the medical unit of the state prison because he had medical conditions, recent surgeries unrelated to the shooting.
“He indicated he did not want a court appointed attorney,” Thomas said. “He wanted to represent himself and that’s not completely unusual. Sometimes that does happen and then when people have the opportunity to reflect upon that, they decided to seek court-appointed counsel or to hire counsel.”
Thomas said Berry indicated that he understood what was happening to him during the court proceeding and he agreed to go to the DOC medical unit.
If at some point lawyers question Berry’s mental state, they will ask the judge to sign an order for a psychiatric examination, Thomas said.
The charges Berry faces are based on what is known about the incident. The State Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation Thursday since Havelock police officers were victims in the case, Thomas said.
“If we see any need to add any additional charges, we will do that in the future,” he said.
Berry has one prior out-of-state misdemeanor marijuana conviction in 1981 and only some traffic violations since then, Thomas said.
If Berry is convicted on the three Class C felonies, under structured sentencing, he would mostly likely be considered a Prior Leave One based on a limited past criminal conviction background, Thomas said.
The judge based the possible sentencing on maximum time Berry could receive, he said.
It is more likely a conviction would mean Berry could receive a minimum sentence of 18 years to a maximum sentence of 24 years, Thomas said.
Thomas said he did not have all the details of the shooting and could not comment on the pending investigation.
“The SBI has interviewed the three officers who were present in the house as well as the female friend of Mr. Berry so I will be reviewing all that when they submit their report,” Thomas said.
The friend called 911 to report Berry had fired a gun in the house, Thomas said.
Havelock police received a call about 12:20 p.m. Thursday about an armed person at 407 Webb Blvd.
Diane Miller, Havelock spokeswoman, said Thursday that when officers arrived, they heard gunshots and entered the home. Miller said the officers did not see Berry, who was in a back bedroom with the door closed. They then heard another gunshot and talked to Berry through the closed door.
“He indicated that he was just going to stay in that room and bleed out,” Miller said of Berry. “Concerned for his safety, they (the officers) entered that room and had a confrontation with the suspect. His injuries were not as a result of the confrontation.”
Borton was back on the job on Friday, evening making an appearance at a Black History Month event at Havelock Middle School, where he received applause from students and staff.
Boone is expected back on the job next week, according to Havelock officials. They offered no information on Fahnestock’s return.
“This could have had a much different ending for both Mr. Berry and also for the three officers who entered the room,” Thomas said. “I believe the officers entered the house and the room thinking that were trying to help someone who they thought had attempted suicide and it turned out to be a different situation.
“We are very fortunate that the injuries were no more serious than they were to the three officers because it was a very dangerous and involved situation.”