UPDATE: Hendersonville police identify suspect, officer in fatal Walmart shooting
Hendersonville authorities say Thursday night's officer-involved shooting was fatal.
Police have identified the suspect as Rufus Cedric Baker, a 32-year-old man from Buncombe County.
"When an officer is involved in an incident where there’s a knife and someone is in proximity, or there’s a gun and that gun is in proximity, I think this community supports and understands the actions that police officers have to take at times," Police Chief Herbert Blake said in a Friday morning news conference.
The officer who shot Baker has been identified as Brandon McGaha, a 12-year veteran of the Hendersonville Police Department.
Detective McGaha is the supervisor of Hendersonville Police Department's ACE Team. The ACE team is a special enforcement unit that is responsible for addressing street level crimes throughout the city of Hendersonville.
Police say the incident occurred during an active drug enforcement operation, and that McGaha and other members of the ACE team were not undercover as part of this operation and could easily be identified as police.
Blake says officers were conducting an undercover drug investigation at the Walmart Super Center on Highlands Square Drive at around 11 p.m. when McGaha shot Baker.
He said that when the officer tried to arrest Baker, whom Blake said was attempting to sell drugs, Baker tried to escape. The officer involved in the shooting said Baker was inside Baker's car, and appeared to be reaching for a weapon in his waistband.
The chief says officers at the scene recovered 14 bags of crystal meth and the suspect’s gun.
Baker is a convicted felon with habitual felon status, whose criminal record includes theft, fraud, eluding arrest, robbery, breaking and entering, and receiving and possessing of stolen goods. He was released this year after serving five years in prison for various offenses.
Authorities said that after the shooting, the officers performed first aid on Baker until medical personnel arrived and he was taken to Pardee Hospital, where he later died.
The SBI has taken over the investigation of the incident, and Hendersonville Police Department said it will be conducting an internal investigation. This is the second time a Hendersonville officer has shot and killed a suspect in the last three years.
McGaha has been placed on paid administrative leave, following the protocols and procedures of the Hendersonville Police Department.
Police say additional information regarding the number of shots fired, specific timeline of events, and location of involved vehicles is currently under investigation.
The official statement from Chief Blake is below:
Around 11 p.m. last night, Hendersonville Police Department responded to the scene of an undercover drug investigation at the Walmart Super Center, shot a suspect who was being placed under arrest and attempted to escape. The officer involved reported that the suspect appeared to be reaching for a weapon in his waistband.
Officers performed first aid until medical personnel arrived and transported the suspect to Pardee Hospital. The suspect later died. We are not releasing the name of the suspect at this time at the request of the family.
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, following the protocols and procedures of the Hendersonville Police Department.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) has taken over the investigation of the incident, as also is standard procedure. Hendersonville Police will conduct an internal investigation, as is typically done in officer-involved shootings. All evidence has been turned over to N.C. SBI investigators, including a substance suspected to be illegal drugs and a semi-automatic pistol recovered at the scene.
“We feel the officer did what he felt was in the best interest of the Public’s and his own safety.”