UPDATE: New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger was arrested Tuesday in Avery County on charges of violating his probation and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Berger was arrested after police in the Town of Beech Mountain investigated him after responding to a call of shots fired early Monday evening near a home where Berger was staying.
Beech Mountain Police Chief Jerry Turbyfill said Berger, who was not known to police at the time of the call, refused to unlock the door of the home when an officer asked him to do so. Without evidence that Berger had fired a gun, Turbyfill said the officer gave him a warning and left, but investigated him afterward due to his suspicious behavior.
By the time the department had verified Berger’s previous charges in New Hanover County, Turbyfill said Berger had since become wanted for absconding, a violation of the terms of his probation.
“We had absolutely no idea that he was a commissioner,” Turbyfill said.
Turbyfill said officers returned to the home Tuesday and could see Berger inside the home, as well as several firearms. Berger again refused to open the door, and Turbyfill said officers kicked in the back door and apprehended Berger without incident.
The weapons were found to be licensed by the owner of the house, which Turbyfill described as an acquaintance of Berger’s who was allowing him to stay there, but Turbyfill said Berger had gained access to the weapons, which were locked in another part of the house, without the owner’s permission.
A marijuana pipe was found in Berger’s possession, but Turbyfill said no evidence of illegal drugs was found at the scene.
Asked if Berger was coherent or appeared impaired at the time of his arrest, Turbyhill paused before responding.
“That’s a difficult question for me to answer,” the chief said. “Usually a person acting normally would come to the door to answer it. He would just shake his head no. That, to me, was not acting normally.”
Berger was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and probation violation. He is scheduled to appear in New Hanover County court Thursday morning.
(This is an update to a story first published Tuesday night. An updated version of that story follows below.)
New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger is in custody at the Avery County Detention Center.
Berger was arrested by officers with the N.C. Probation Department, according to N.C. Department of Public Safety records.
Berger’s specific charges were not immediately available. He is currently being held on a $300,000 bond, according to the Avery County Sheriff’s Office.
In February, Berger was sentenced to a year of supervised probation in relation to impaired driving charges stemming from an arrest on Masonboro Loop Road in Wilmington late last year. In exchange for a guilty plea, the district attorney’s office reduced charges against him, including a felony charge for possession of a controlled substance.
Berger was sentenced to 120 days suspended on the DWI charge and 12 months supervised probation on that charge and the reduced drug charge. The terms of his probation called for Berger to obtain a substance abuse assessment, pay a $200 fine and court costs, perform community service and report back to the court on Feb. 3, 2015.
Berger was arrested on those charges last December, when he was found slumped over the steering wheel of a car in the middle of Masonboro Loop Road. Police found Berger unconscious and in possession of several pills that were determined to be schedule II controlled substances.
Berger was charged with DWI, possession of a schedule II controlled substance and impeding traffic. The DWI and impeding traffic charges are misdemeanors, while the drug charge, a felony, was reduced to a misdemeanor as part of the plea deal.
Berger was previously charged with DWI in 2012, when he was stopped for performing an unsafe movement in downtown Wilmington. That case was continued multiple times in 2013 and was dismissed as part of the plea arrangement in February.
Berger was last seen in his role as a county commissioner at an agenda briefing in May. He has not attended a regular meeting of the board of commissioners since his arrest last December.
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