Three Havelock Police officers thought they were trying to save a life. Next thing they knew, they were fighting for their own.
Sgt. Jim Fahnestock, Lt. Brian Borton and Patrol Officer Loren Boone were injured in a Feb. 14 shooting. The three will be recognized with medals during the Havelock Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday at Havelock City Hall for putting the safety of the alleged shooter, Richard Berry, ahead of their own.
"I’m very proud of that," Havelock Police Chief G. Wayne Cyrus said. "I’m very proud of them for having made the decision to try to help an individual that they thought was in need of help as opposed to using deadly force to counter his attack."
The three officers were among the first to respond to a report of a man with a gun firing shots around 12:30 p.m. at 407 Webb Blvd. They entered the home and heard two shots from a back bedroom. Berry was behind a closed door.
"At that point after the second shot, Mr. Berry made the statement to the officers that he had allegedly shot himself and that he was going to just lie there and bleed out," Cyrus said. "The officers again tried to contact him verbally and were not able to do so. It was their thought at the time that Mr. Berry had in fact suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound and the three officers entered the room to check on his safety and to provide first aid to him if needed."
That’s when things changed drastically. Fahnestock entered the room first, followed by Borton and then Boone. Berry was in the bed in a fetal position, facing away from the officers. He suddenly rolled over in the bed, a semi-automatic pistol in each hand, and began firing multiple shots.
Due to their positions in the room, the officers reacted by physically trying to get the guns away from Berry. During the confrontation, each was shot in their left hands.
"As the officers attempted to gain control of him, he was positioning the weapons as best he could to continue firing at the officers, according to the officers’ reports, which made it difficult for them to gain control of the weapons because he was constantly moving the weapons in an attempt to shoot at the officers," Cyrus said.
In the end, the officers subdued Berry and disarmed him despite their injuries. Berry was not shot during the altercation but was wheeled out on a stretcher about an hour after the incident and taken to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern.
As for the officers, Borton and Boone were treated and released from the hospital that day and returned to work in a few days.
Fahnestock, the most severely injured, had surgery to repair damage done by the round that penetrated his hand and caused significant damage to his thumb and the lower portion of his hand. Fahnestock returned to light duty at the police department about two weeks ago, assisting with administrative work. Cyrus said Fahnestock’s doctors have indicated a return to full duty is likely in about four months.
"Their purpose for entering the room was to try to aid (Berry) thinking that he had suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and their belief was compounded by the fact that they had lost contact with him and he was not responding to them, and they chose not to use deadly force to counter deadly force," Cyrus said. "They chose to engage him in a physical confrontation in order to wrestle those pistols away from him rather than use deadly force to counter his attack on them and in doing so they prevented him from suffering serious injury or death, but on the other hand, that decision cost them in the fact that all three of them were injured by gunfire when Mr. Berry was allegedly firing his weapons at the officers."
Cyrus said it may be the first time Havelock police officers had ever been injured during a shooting.
"We’ve gone back a ways trying to locate information on previous incidents like that and have found none," he said.
Fahnestock, Borton and Boone are not commenting on the incident, citing the upcoming case against Berry. Cyrus has expressed appreciation for all the support the officers and department have received from the community after the shooting.
The officers will receive non-military Purple Heart medals during Monday’s board meeting that begins at 7 p.m. at Havelock City Hall.
Meanwhile, Berry, 60, is next scheduled to appear in Craven District Court on May 3 on three counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury. He is currently being held in the Craven County Jail under a $1 million bond.