The deadly shooting of Dion Julius Brown, 22, on April 28, by a Columbus County sheriff's deputy has been deemed as justified, according to a news release from the Columbus County District Attorney's Office. That news release says the "officers' use of deadly force matched the threat presented and is legally justified."
The Columbus County Sheriff's Office was contacted by the Horry County Police Department that day, in reference to Brown being wanted for the murder of Mac Norris at Hills Grocery Store in Loris on April 27.
Horry County police had warrants for Brown for Murder, Robbery, Burglary, and Possession of a Weapon during a Violent Crime.
According to the warrant for murder, Brown shot the store clerk, Malcolm Norris, during an armed robbery. The warrant states Brown had been recently fired from the Hills Supermarket, had asked for his job back, and was rejected. Police say Brown was identified by another employee at the store.
According to the warrant for Robbery and Burglary, Brown stole money from Norris and from the store during the incident.
Horry County police also released an incident report on the shooting at the grocery store. In it, it says police were called when the suspect was still inside the store. They arrived to find Norris lying on the ground with a wound to the head. An employee was tending to Norris. Two other employees were hiding in a rear closet of the store.
The day after the shooting at the Loris store, Columbus County deputies say they found him running from a burning home on Third St. in Tabor City.
They ran after him down a wooded trail. Two deputies, Justin Hern and Robert Williamson, pursued Brown.
"As both deputies neared Brown's position, Brown fired multiple rounds, with one round striking Deputy Hern in his ballistic vest. Deputies Hern and Williamson immediately returned fire, striking Mr. Brown several times and killing him," the release from the District Attorney said.
Eugene Banks was later found dead inside the burning home.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was called in by Sheriff Lewis Hatcher to conduct an independent review of the shooting.
The results of the SBI investigation showed the deputies were justified in shooting Brown because he was firing at them, and it was necessary for the protection of their lives.
They had also just witnessed Brown fleeing from an arson, and he could have posed a threat to other citizens, according to the SBI.
According to the release, Brown, had he survived, would have been charged in North Carolina with numerous crimes in relation to Banks' death as well as the shooting of Deputy Hern.
"It is always unfortunate when officers are compelled by circumstances to use deadly force. However, the law of North Carolina grants legal protection to officers in the performance of these sacred duties. In this instance, the use of deadly force was a measured and justified reaction to the violent and criminal behavior of Mr. Dion Brown. The officers involved acted courageously and legally in risking their own lives in protection of the public. Deputies Hern and Williamson are to be commended for risking their own lives in service to the people of Columbus County," wrote Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David.