The Beaufort police officers who shot and killed a man as he was trying to shoot his sister were justified in using lethal force, the district attorney announced Thursday.
According to District Attorney Scott Thomas, Detective Eric J. Sassano, 29, and Officer Brian C. Willis, 26, were justified in shooting and killing 60-year-old Arthur Freeman Page Jr., of Raleigh., on Oct. 31 on Rutledge Ave. in Beaufort. The SBI's conclusion is based on analysis of the scene, interviews with witnesses, and interviews with the officers involved.
"Based upon the facts set forth above, Detective Sassano and Officer Willis
were justified in the use of lethal force. Their quick response and action were appropriate and saved lives," wrote Thomas in a letter to Beaufort Police Chief Steve Lewis.
Sassano and Willis first encountered Page just after 10:20 p.m. on Halloween night at 202 Rutledge Ave. in Beaufort. Page was loading his shotgun to shoot his sister, Susan Zimmerman Salazar, in the living room of the home, said Chief Lewis.
Sassano and Willis asked Page several times to drop his weapon, Chief Lewis said. But the suspect allegedly continued loading his shotgun and began raising the barrel in the direction of his sister. The two officers then fired and hit Paige, killing the suspect, Chief Lewis explained.
Chief Lewis called the officers "heroes."
It appeared that the shooting stemmed from an altercation between Page and his sister, Salazar, at her home at 203 Rutledge Ave., according to Chief Lewis.
Salazar told NewsChannel 12 Page showed up at her home with a shotgun that used to belong to their grandfather. Salazar said she believed her brother had come to kill her when he said,"Happy Halloween. I've come to settle things." Salazar said her brother then began beating her.
Salazar was able to run to the home of her neighbor, McArthur Wright, at 202 Rutledge Ave., Chief Lewis said. But as Wright was letting Salazar into his home, Page fired his shotgun, hitting Wright in the shoulder and grazing Salazar, investigators said.
Wright then went to neighbor Patrick Tosto's house to get help, while Salazar hid in a bedroom of Wright's home with his wife.
Salazar said her brother eventually walked into Wright's home where she was hiding and found her, then beat her until police arrived. Salazar said the officers asked her brother to drop his weapon. But her brother did not comply and was shot from behind twice while he was kneeling over her, Salazar said. The suspect died at the scene.
Salazar and Wright have both been treated and released from a hospital. A fundraiser has been set up for Wright to pay for his medical expenses.
The officers who shot and killed the suspect both began their career at the Beaufort Police Department; Sassano has worked there for 6-and-a-half years while Willis has been working there for 2 years.