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A mobile home at 2130 Hardin Road in Deep Gap was the scene of a deadly shooting in July. The incident left Deputy William Mast Jr. and Mitchell Trivette dead. File photo.

Originally published: 2012-12-20 09:39:17
Last modified: 2012-12-20 09:52:26

DA: Deputies justified in shooting

District Attorney Jerry Wilson has determined that deputies were "completely justified" in using deadly force against 33-year-old Mitchell Trivette during an incident in July that also killed Deputy William Mast Jr.

In a memo released Thursday, Wilson described the circumstances of the confrontation based on information from the State Bureau of Investigation.

Deputies Mast and Preston Russell were directed to 2130 Hardin Road around 12:50 a.m. July 26 following a 911 call. After arriving at 1:03 a.m., the deputies parked at the end of the driveway and walked toward the mobile home, Wilson wrote.

Mast continued a few steps in front of the home where there were two doors, Wilson said. Immediately, two females came from the door to Mast's right, and Russell alerted Mast that someone was running through the mobile home, he wrote.

A man appeared at the door to Mast's left pointing a long gun, and both deputies told the man to put down the rifle, Wilson said.

"The male threw what was later determined to be a toy rifle into the yard and closed the door," the memo states.

Mast told the two females to leave the house. As they did, the man again opened the door and exited the mobile home with a shotgun and began to advance toward Mast, Wilson said.

Mast and Russell, with guns drawn, began retreating to a vehicle in front of the mobile home for cover, yelling continuously for the man to drop his weapon, Wilson wrote. The man refused and continued to advance.

"Although there is strong evidence the male subject fired his weapon first, it is impossible to know for sure," Wilson wrote.

Four shots were fired almost simultaneously, he said. The man fired one round from his shotgun, which struck Mast in the face, shoulder and hands. Mast fired one shot that struck the man in the shoulder, and Russell fired two shots that struck and ultimately killed the man, according to Wilson.

Before the encounter, Trivette had consumed alcohol and at least two other controlled substances. As reported Friday by the Watauga Democrat, an autopsy showed those substances to be hydrocodone and alprazolam.

Watauga Medics were sent to the scene at 1:09 a.m. The entire encounter, from the arrival of officers until shots were fired, lasted approximately six minutes, Wilson wrote.

"After a thorough review of the evidence collected by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, it is my opinion that the use of deadly force by Deputies Mast and Russell in this incident was completely justified," Wilson wrote. "They both showed great restraint before using deadly force by trying at length to convince Mr. Trivette to put his weapon down.

"All the evidence indicates the officers used deadly force only when they had no other choice. ... Under all the evidence, Deputies Mast and Russell acted completely within the law and showed themselves to be well-trained law enforcement officers, taking life only when absolutely necessary to protect themselves and society."

Sheriff Len Hagaman said Thursday morning he had not received anything from the District Attorney's Office but said, "I would definitely concur with that," regarding the statement that the officers were well-trained and followed the law.

Mast and Trivette died from their injuries. After a temporary leave from the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, Russell returned to work earlier this fall.

Return to later for more on this story.