LUMBERTON — A teenager who claims a Lumberton police officer shot at him was cross-examined in District Court on Thursday.
The trial of Claudie Lowery was recessed and will resume on May 5.
The courtroom at times was tense as the defense tried to poked holes in 16-year-old Aaron Mitchell’s account and the prosecution, led by District Attorney Johnson Britt, tried to put it back together.
Lowery was suspended from the Lumberton Police Department after he was arrested on Jan. 22 and charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly firing shots at his neighbor and pointing a gun at Mitchell’s mother, Ruth Bostic Mitchell, and his older brother, Billy Mitchell.
Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Altman testified that when he arrived at Lowery’s Pleasant Hope Road home on the night of Jan. 13, Lowery, holding a pistol and a rifle, was calm. Lowery, who was off-duty, told Altman he was a police officer and put down his guns, Altman said.
Reading from his incident report, Altman said Lowery had reported disorderly conduct at his home and said someone was trying to turn off his power and break into his house. Lowery told Altman he saw a black male running from his home, chased him to his driveway and fired shots in the air to scare him.
Altman said Lowery thought his girlfriend, with whom he had recently had a dispute, had sent someone to break into the house.
Altman testified that Lowery’s power box was partially open and the latch had been broken. He tried to dust for prints, but couldn’t lift any. Altman said there were no signs of forced entry at the house and no shells from bullets around it. He went across the street, where Lowery said the intruder had fled to, but no one answered his knocks.
A Duke Energy Progress employee confirmed that there had been an outage near the intersection of Chicken Road and Pleasant Hope Road around 7:30 p.m., noting the power was out for less than a minute.
Lumberton police Capt. Terry Parker told the judge Lowery’s service weapon was recovered before the incident, during the dispute between Lowery and his girlfriend.
Arnold Locklear, Lowery’s lawyer, asked Parker if the weapon recovered had any relation to the case being discussed.
“Not to my knowledge,” Parker said.
Lowery declined to comment for this story at his attorney’s advice.
According to 20-year-old Billy Mitchell, he and a family friend, Raheen Savannah, were outside playing basketball when the power went out. His brother had started walking home just before, he said.
The brothers said six shots were fired after that, although Locklear accused them of changing that figure throughout the day.
Once inside, Billy Mitchell didn’t answer a deputy’s knocks or let his brother answer because he “figured they would take (Lowery’s) side.”
At about 8:30 p.m., Ruth Mitchell started get text messages that someone had fired a gun at her son. Sheleft her church, where she was teaching a class.
“I wasn’t trying to be Trayvon Martin’s mom,” she said, noting her son was in shock when she got home.
“… He really didn’t want to talk about it. It took me the next day to find out ‘are you OK?’”
Ruth Mitchell testified that she went over to Lowery’s house and when he came to the door, with the pistol and rifle, asked him if he had shot at her son.
“He said yes,” she said, while Lowery shook his head.
When she asked why, Lowery said the teenager had been trying to cut off his power. Ruth Mitchell said she then gave Lowery her cell phone to talk to her ex-husband and Lowery, cursing at her, told her to get off his porch. Ruth Mitchell told Judge William Moore she began to back away and Lowery pointed a gun in her face. By this time, Billy Mitchell and Savannah were standing at the bottom of the steps.
Locklear, raising his voice, questioned how Aaron Mitchell could have seen the exchange from their house, and Ruth Mitchell, with a Bible in hand, insisted he could. The Mitchells said Lowery then walked them back to their house at gunpoint, a claim met by scoffs from the officer.
Ruth Mitchell testified that Lowery said “you have not met a crazy-ass Indian until you have met me,” and also used expletives when telling them to leave his porch.
The trial, which is set to resume at 2:30 p.m. on May 5, is expected to conclude that day.