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January 26, 2006
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Man shot by N.C. deputy was armed, sheriff says

GREG LACOUR

Gaither Antonio "Tony" Connelly is a good neighbor, a guy who welcomes newcomers and helps people with yard work, neighbors say.

The 25-year state employee and corrections officer does his job well and shows up for work every day, his boss says.

But Tuesday, he lay in a hospital bed in Charlotte, shot twice by a Burke County sheriff's deputy after, authorities said, Connelly drew a gun on the deputy as he responded to a domestic disturbance at Connelly's home.

"Shock, absolute shock," said Carol Cotter, who's lived across the street from Connelly for the last nine years.

Connelly, 47, remained in critical condition at Carolinas Medical Center, as State Bureau of Investigation agents began probing the shooting.

Deputy Dylan Anderson shot Connelly in the abdomen and right leg about 2:40 a.m., said Sheriff John McDevitt.

Anderson and a Drexel police officer, Derrick Gates, were responding to a call about a disturbance at Connelly's home on Farmland Acres Road outside Drexel, about 55 miles northwest of Charlotte, McDevitt said. Neither officer was hurt, and no one had been charged as of Tuesday.

One of Connelly's daughters called 911 at 2:29 a.m. "My father is going off on my mom," the woman cries on the 911 recording. "I don't have time to explain this, just come!"

Later, the daughter tells the dispatcher that her father is armed and that her mother is bleeding but doesn't need an ambulance. She says she and her mother are leaving the house.

At 2:41, a panting Gates radioed that Connelly had been shot.

The Sheriff's Office turned the investigation over to the SBI, which is standard practice when an officer kills or injures someone in the line of duty.

The SBI is investigating whether Anderson acted properly when he shot Connelly, said Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Attorney General's Office.

Until the investigation is finished, Anderson will be on administrative leave with pay, McDevitt said.

The 23-year-old has been a deputy since Oct. 10, 2004, having started with the Sheriff's Office as a detention officer on May 17 of that year, county personnel records show.

Connelly has worked as a corrections officer since 1990 and at Caldwell Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison in Hudson, since 1996, said Chad Towery, the prison's assistant superintendent.

Towery said Connelly has always performed his duties well; for now, the Department of Corrections considers him out on medical leave, Towery said.

The Sheriff's Office said Anderson and Gates found Connelly's wife and daughter outside when they arrived at their home. The officers found an angry Connelly in the basement. He became more combative, and Anderson used pepper spray on him, the release said.

Then Connelly pointed a revolver at the officers, and Anderson shot him, McDevitt said. Connelly retreated to another part of the basement; the sheriff said he found the revolver in the bottom drawer of a chest Connelly had lain next to as he spoke to a dispatcher.

At 2:49, the Burke County dispatcher called the Connelly home, and Connelly answered.

On the recording, he tells the dispatcher that he's been shot in the stomach and leg; that he can't walk because his right leg is "blown in two"; that he can't see because of the pepper spray; and that he'll turn himself in.

 Charlotte Observer (http://www.charlotte.com/)






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