01/24/2006

Off-duty prison guard shot by N.C. deputy after altercation

STEVE LYTTLE- An off-duty prison guard in Burke County was shot and seriously injured early this morning by a Burke County sheriff's deputy.

The Burke County Sheriff's Office says Gaither Antonio Connelly, 47, of Morganton, was shot twice after a police say he pointed a handgun toward the deputy and an office from the Drexel Police Department.

He is hospitalized in Charlotte with what are described as "serious" injuries.

The incident happened around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning when officers were called to Connelly's home, on Farmland Acres. Several media outlets report police were called to deal with a domestic dispute.

When officers arrived, they found Connelly's wife and daughter outside the home.

Officers went inside and found Connelly in the basement. Burke County Sheriff John McDevitt said Connelly was irate, and as the police officers tried to talk to him, they say the man became even more combative.

During the argument, the deputy used pepper spray on Connelly. Police say Connelly then pulled a handgun and pointed it toward the officers. McDevitt said the sheriff's deputy then shot Connelly in the abdomen and hip. The officers were not injured during the incident.

McDevitt said Connelly then retreated into another area of the basemen, phoned the sheriff's office, and said he had been shot twice and would turn himself in. Another deputy entered the house minutes later, found Connelly, and took him into custody.

Connelly was taken to Grace Hospital in Morganton, and then transferred to Carolinas Medical Center. McDevitt said Connelly's condition was "serious but stable" when he was transferred.

McDevitt said Connelly's handgun, which had bloodstains on it, was found during a search of the home.

Connelly is a sergeant with the N.C. Department of Corrections, assigned to the Caldwell County unit.

The names of the officers involved in the shooting are being withheld, pending an investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. Agents from the bureau are at the victim's home this morning.

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

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