James Howard Allen, a 74-year-old Army veteran who had just had heart surgery was fatally shot by Gastonia, North Carolina police officer Josh Lefevers, after a relative called upon authorities to make sure he was OK, according to WSOC-TV.
The calamitous turn-of-events began when a concerned distant relative called Allen’s local police department in hopes of having an officer stop by his home to check on his progress. Allen had just been released from a hospital days earlier after undergoing heart surgery. A police officer was dispatched to Allen’s home and arrived at 10:20 pm on Saturday night and when he knocked on the door. No one answered, so he left.
County officials checked the hospitals for Allen and came up empty. At 11:30 pm Gastonia police summoned the local fire department and EMS so that Allen’s home could again be checked, as there was some concern he was ill and could not make it to the door. According to Police Chief Robert Helton, the emergency workers broke down the door of the home. Lefevers proceeded to enter the home, along with firefighters, via the back door and when they came across Allen. The elderly man was reportedly holding a gun, reports WSOC-TV.
Chief Helton says that when Lefevers came face-to-face with Allen, “He was challenged to lower the gun down. The gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him.”
Allen’s sister, Mary Battle (pictured), told WSOC-TV she learned about her brother’s violent death as she listened to her local news channel while preparing for worship on Sunday morning. Battle contends, “I think that he probably thought somebody was breaking in his house or robbing him of something. There should have been a better way to handle this. Something else could have been done. I’m so mad; I’m hurt. I’m hurt,” said the devastated sister.
Mary’s husband, Robert agrees, and thinks that his brother-in-law’s reaction to seeing an unexpected intruder breaking into his home at night was a natural one, telling WSOC-TV: “He probably woke up, someone’s breaking in on me so when you’re by yourself you try to protect yourself.”
Allen’s friend, Otis Thompson told the news station that the response police meet with should have been expected. “You kick the man’s door in. He’s disoriented and he’s in his own house, privacy of his own home; my first reaction would be to grab a gun, too,” he told the TV station.
Lefevers, who has been a policeman for only two years, has reportedly been placed on an administrative leave and the Allen shooting is being delved into by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.