More than just adults were inside a car police fired into Friday night when it was driven toward them in a threatening manner — the occupants also included two young children.
“There were two minors in the vehicle,” Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday regarding an illegal drug transaction that led to a woman being wounded and the car speeding away. “I can confirm the fact that they were there.”
Another source told The Mount Airy News Tuesday that the children were boys, ages 4 and 6, whose mother received a non-life-threatening gunshot wound during the incident due to acting as a “human shield” for them. The woman’s identity has not been released.
Her boyfriend, the father of the children, is one of two men who are facing felony charges as a result of the alleged drug transaction that culminated with the officer-involved shooting. Derrick Ray Simmons, 25, was still at large Tuesday on charges of sale or delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine) and conspiracy to sell and deliver a Schedule II controlled substance.
A second man in the 2010 Dodge Challenger, identified as its driver, is facing those charges as well as assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, for allegedly trying to run down police, and felony speeding to elude arrest. Joseph Harold Ezekiel, 51, is further accused of resisting, obstructing or delaying a public officer because he attempted to flee from custody after turning himself in to police over the weekend.
The incident unfolded Friday night at the Independence Plaza shopping center on the corner of North Renfro Street and Independence Boulevard, when city police attempted to stop the Challenger believed to have been involved in the illegal drug transaction.
As narcotics detectives Phillip Newman and Alex Ledford approached the vehicle, it was driven toward one of them, according to previous reports.
Chief Watson said Tuesday that the presence in the car of someone other than the adults was known by one of the officers, and in firing his weapon “the action he chose was to preserve his safety and life and possibly the lives of others.”
Watson added that “both of them were placed in the situation of where they thought they were in imminent danger for serious bodily injury.” Each officer fired into the car, previous reports said.
The woman in the Challenger, who was in the rear passenger area along with the children, later showed up at Northern Hospital of Surry County seeking treatment for her wound, and the car was found unoccupied at another Mount Airy location.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Services is said to be conducting an investigation regarding the children’s presence in the vehicle during alleged illegal narcotics activity.
“I believe social services is involved, but I don’t know to what extent at this point,” the police chief said Tuesday.
“It is a shame that parents place their children in circumstances such as this.”
In keeping with departmental policy, the two narcotics detectives are on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation of the officer-involved shooting.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.