Two Chatham Sheriff’s deputies charged in connection with off-duty shooting

BY D. LARS DOLDER, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/6/21

PITTSBORO — The Pittsboro Police Department has concluded its investigation into an April 11 incident involving three off-duty law enforcement officers, according to a PPD press release, …

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Two Chatham Sheriff’s deputies charged in connection with off-duty shooting

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Posted
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PITTSBORO — The Pittsboro Police Department has concluded its investigation into an April 11 incident involving three off-duty law enforcement officers, according to a PPD press release, charging two of them.

The three officers — two of whom PPD identified as now-former Chatham County Sheriff’s Office deputies Alexis Bonilla and Gregory D. Barrett — were found intoxicated in public with several weapons after multiple reports of shots fired. 

In the month-long investigation, Pittsboro police concluded that Bonilla, 24, of Siler City, discharged at least one of several non-department issued weapons found at the scene, a parking lot at 50 West Salisbury St. in Pittsboro.

Bonilla was charged with discharging a firearm inside Pittsboro city limits and carrying a concealed gun after/while consuming alcohol. Barrett, 27, of Robbins, was charged with carrying a concealed gun after/while consuming alcohol. 

The third officer, a sergeant with the Siler City Police Department, was not carrying a weapon and was not found to have violated any North Carolina laws. The officer has not been charged with any crimes, but appears to have been dismissed from the department, according to the press release.

No one was injured as a result of the shots fired, nor was any property damaged.

“Fortunately, no one was hurt,” PPD Chief Shorty Johnson previously told the News + Record, “and no damage was reported to any of the buildings or vehicles or anything around.”

The officers were not arrested at the time of the incident, but the Pittsboro police department immediately launched its investigation, Johnson said. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office also launched an internal investigation into Bonilla’s and Barrett’s conduct. Both were immediately suspended following the incident, according to Sheriff Mike Roberson. Three days later, they were officially dismissed for dishonesty and multiple policy violations.

“As law enforcement, we must be good stewards of public trust,” Roberson said in a press release. “Our internal investigation was handled swiftly and professionally, and we feel the final decision was the right one. Dishonesty or criminal behavior will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office.” 

The crime comes at a time of heightened national scrutiny of police officers following Derek Chauvin’s Minnesota trial for murdering George Floyd, other high-profile charges against police officers around the country and the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by law enforcement officers in Elizabeth City. While the police may have a reputation for lenience within their ranks, Johnson said, his department — and all Chatham law enforcement agencies — take seriously their commitment to impartiality.

“We treat everyone the same, whether they’re a law enforcement officer not,” he previously told the News + Record. “I know some people say that we take longer to charge law enforcement officers than we do the normal public ... But we just want to make sure that we did a complete investigation, overturned every rock, made sure that we had everything in order, before we took charges out on someone — and that would have been the case even if it wasn’t someone with law enforcement.”

Bonilla and Barrett are scheduled to appear in court on May 26 in Pittsboro.  

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

 

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