Sheriff: Gunman killed outside North Carolina courthouse

Photo of Buncombe County courthouse courtesy of NC Courts website

ASHEVILLE – A gunman exchanged fire with officers outside a North Carolina courthouse on Tuesday before authorities shot and killed him, the sheriff said.

A deputy responding to the scene in the city of Asheville was hurt but expected to survive, said Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller. He indicated that the injury wasn’t a gunshot wound but wouldn’t elaborate. Miller said no bystanders or courthouse employees were hurt.

Shortly before 10 a.m., authorities received a call about an active shooter outside the county courthouse. Dozens of deputies and police officers swarmed the area while the courthouse was locked down, and witnesses described hearing several gunshots. Authorities urged people to avoid the area, but were able to say there was no longer a threat after about a half-hour.

Miller said that officers returned fire on the suspect who was inside a parked car, killing him. His identity wasn’t released. The motive wasn’t clear, but Miller said: “We believe that it’s random right now.”

The hurt deputy was being treated at a hospital and was expected to survive.

Drew Reisinger, 36, the Register of Deeds for Buncombe County, said he was in his office on the same block as the courthouse when he saw a swarm of police officers descend on downtown.

“All of a sudden we see blue lights flashing,” he said by phone. “And I probably could have counted up to 50 cop cars coming in with all the urgency of a dire situation.”

Reisinger said downtown is often busy and that he sometimes sees the lights and hears the sirens of police cars.

“This was different,” he said. “We got a phone call from officials saying ‘Lock down your doors. This isn’t a drill. Bullets are being fired. Stay away from your windows.'”

Reisinger said after a few minutes he looked out the window and heard one gunshot. And then “things started to slow down a little bit.”

“I opened the windows and poked my head out. And at that point we heard a big bang,” he said. “A few minutes later a call came through saying the shooter was down,” Reisinger said.