A weekend incident at a traffic checkpoint that left two motorists wounded by gunfire and led to seven deputies being placed on paid leave became violent when an SUV driver drove toward deputies to escape, Brunswick County's sheriff said Monday.
Four sheriff's deputies from Brunswick County and three from New Hanover County fired their handguns during the incident, Sheriff John Ingram said. The driver and his passenger were each struck multiple times.
"Realizing their lives were in danger of being run over by this vehicle," Ingram said, deputies "proceeded to shoot at the vehicle in attempts to stop the vehicle from traveling any further."
Authorities said Jerry Onasis Melvin, 42, is in the Brunswick County jail and faces eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, and one count of felony conspiracy to elude. Melvin appeared in court Monday with his left arm in a sling. A judge appointed him an attorney.
Antoine Levar Graham, 32, remained in the hospital Monday morning. He is charged with 10 counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, 10 counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, one count of fleeing to elude arrest with motor vehicle, and other charges.
Neither man had a listed telephone number. Neither they nor their families could be reached for comment.
The confrontation began about 11:30 p.m. Friday on U.S. 17 in Leland when Brunswick County deputy sheriff John Rogers saw "numerous items being thrown" from a 1998 Lincoln Navigator as it approached the checkpoint, Ingram said. Rogers approached the vehicle, only for it to speed away and toward other deputies, the sheriff said.
The SUV made a U-turn in the highway's median and a man suffering from gunshot wounds jumped from it. The driver continued onto another highway until Rogers used his patrol car to tap the rear of the SUV, causing it to spin to a stop in the median, Ingram said.
Ingram said he couldn't say with certainty what was thrown from the SUV, but a weapon, a bag of marijuana and a container of alcohol were recovered.
Ingram and District Attorney Jon David have each asked the State Bureau of Investigation to join in the investigation.