Off-duty officer says training helped him nab suspect

LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – Lumberton Police said three teenagers were shot Thursday afternoon in the Godwin Heights Community and two people are in jail for the crime. An off-duty officer who stopped one of the suspects is being hailed a hero.

Lumberton Police officer and city councilman Burnis Wilkins said it was a regular Thursday afternoon for him yesterday.

“Around 4:30 I was cutting my grass,” Wilkins said.

But things quickly changed.

“I heard about at least 30 gunshots ring off,” Wilkins recalled. “I stood there for just a second, and then I heard screeching tires.”

Wilkins said at that moment he saw a man running down the street with a gun in his hand–and years of training kicked in.

“As he was ducking behind a home I reached in my pickup truck to grab my weapon and began pursuing him at a different angle,” he said. “He didn’t know I was behind him, he never looked back.”

Wilkins eventually caught up to the man and confronted him as he tried to escape.

“He suddenly turned and had his cell phone in one hand and the weapon in the other hand,” Wilkins said. “The gun was at such an angle that I could see the barrel on the top of the gun and the slide was not on top of it, which let me know that it was either jammed or the weapon was empty.”

Wilkins said he was able to catch the suspect shortly after and thanked the training offered to all Lumberton officers with saving lives Thursday.

Deputy Chief Tommy Barnes said officers regularly practice hundreds of scenarios–including one similar to what Wilkins went through.

“There’s like 600 different scenarios,” Barnes explained. “It kinda puts a lot of stress on the officers because to begin with, he has no idea what kinda scenario he’s gonna encounter.”

“That scenario’s on there,” Wilkins said. “That exact scenario is there.”

Wilkins said it’s that training that kept him from pulling the trigger.

“Milliseconds,” Wilkins said. “I mean, It was a thought. I know the trigger; it was already halfway pulled I know that. But when I caught that, I knew he coldn’t fire. I knew I had time to do something.”

The suspect and another man were both arrested for the crime, though more arrests are possible, police said.

Each is being held on a $1 million bond.