GRIFTON, N.C. – A man killed his girlfriend and later started a shootout in the woods with sheriff's deputies that killed a lawman and left the gunman dead, investigators said Wednesday.
Craven County sheriff's Capt. Joe Heckman said suspect Clarence Douglas Phillips, 43, died at a nearby hospital from gunshot wounds sustained during the shootout in neighboring Lenoir County. He said deputies found Phillips' girlfriend, 49-year-old Cynthia Tillett Knighten, dead in her Craven County home.
Authorities identified the slain officer as Lenoir County Sheriff's Det. Allen Pearson. Another officer was critically wounded.
Heckman said Phillips had a history of domestic issues and that deputies believe Phillips shot Knighten, but it wasn't clear.
"There was a huge amount of head trauma," he said about the woman's injuries, adding that there were no other suspects.
Before authorities found Knighten in her home, deputies in Lenoir County received a call late Tuesday that a man had driven a vehicle into a wooded area near Grifton, about 75 miles southeast of Raleigh, and was firing a gun. Deputies determined that the vehicle was Knighten's.
Authorities repeatedly asked Phillips to surrender after establishing a perimeter around him, they said. A Highway Patrol helicopter helped identify Phillips' location in the woods and then officers began approaching him.
As officers entered the woods, the man began firing at them, Lenoir County Sheriff Billy Smith said. Deputies returned fire.
Smith said Pearson died at the hospital. Det. Ryan Dawson was wounded and was being treated at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Smith said.
County Manager Michael Jarman said Dawson had undergone surgery but remained in critical condition.
Records with the Department of Corrections show Phillips has a lengthy criminal history, including a 2004 conviction for attempted assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill and communicating threats. Records show he was convicted of assaulting a female in 1999. He also had a number of convictions in the 1980s, including assault with a deadly weapon and resisting an officer.