Patrick Earl Gatson, 32, robbed a woman a month after he was released from prison in mid-February, said Fayetteville Police Lt. Todd Joyce. “He knocked her to the ground and snatched the woman’s purse,” Joyce said. Gatson was being sought by authorities for that robbery the night he was shot and killed by police. Joyce said the woman’s purse was found in a trash can at his apartment. Members of the FPD’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team went to Gatson’s home to arrest him for the robbery, said Interim Police Chief Anthony Kelly. He lived at a horseshoe-shaped apartment complex of three buildings on North Street. Gatson holed up in his apartment and told police he wasn’t going back to prison, officials said, and repeatedly threatened to kill any officer who approached him.
Kelly said Gatson was shot following an eight-hour standoff, “when the situation presented itself.” A special tactics officer had positioned himself in the attic of the apartment. He came down from the attic and found the fugitive in a closet of a bedroom. Kelly said the officer turned and ducked out of the way when he spotted the subject holding a rifle. Early reports were that Gatson chased the officer from the bedroom but did not fire at him. Kelly said two officers used “nonlethal weapons,” and a third fired his gun when the subject pointed the rifle at them.
However, the chief could not precisely describe the sequence of events, nor could he say which of the officers fired the fatal bullet. The SBI continues to interview the officers involved and view video footage of the body cameras worn by the 60 policemen on the scene, the chief said. An internal affairs investigation is being conducted in addition to the SBI probe. That is standard procedure in officer-involved incidents.
The officers placed on administrative duty are Joseph Delpizzo, 44, Shawn Collins, 42 and Aaron Hunt, 28. Kelly said Delpizzo and Collins are 19-year veterans of the force. Hunt has been with the department for seven years. Police crisis negotiators and family members pleaded with Gatson repeatedly over the course of the eight-hour standoff. “We did everything in our power to end this peacefully,” said Capt. Darry Whitaker, one of the crisis negotiators.
Residents of the apartment complex at the corner of North and Drake Streets were evacuated soon after the drama unfolded. T.C. Berrien Elementary School, which is next to the apartments, was locked down until school was dismissed about 2:30 p.m. Kelly said officers were careful not to take any aggressive action while school was in session. Residents returning home from work late in the afternoon could not enter the cordoned off area. A van arrived on the scene so residents and their children could get out of the cold. Police had hamburgers and fries brought to them from a fast food restaurant.
Chief Kelly opened the news briefing last week saying he is praying for all those involved in “this unfortunate incident.”