Major returns to full duty after shooting occurred during child pornography investigation

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Brunswick County Sheriff’s Major Laurie Watson has returned to full duty after it was determined that an Ash man, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head during the execution of a federal search warrant, was not shot as the result of the officer firing her weapon at the scene.

Related: ICE investigation in Brunswick County ends in suspect shooting; officer on administrative leave

Bradley Barrett Lewis, 28, was the subject of a federal search warrant involving an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation into child pornography, according to ICE Spokesman Bryan Cox.

At about 6 a.m. Tuesday, local and federal authorities executed a federal search warrant at his home in the 9000 bock of Little River Road NW in Ash. When law enforcement attempted to secure the suspect, Lewis fired a weapon. At the same moment, Watson drew her service weapon and fired a single shot.

Lewis was taken to Grand Strand Memorial Hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to his head. His condition is unknown.

According to Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Emily Flax, it was determined based on crime scene evidence that the suspect’s gunshot wound was not the result of Watson firing her weapon.

“The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards Division has determined that Major Laurie Watson’s actions earlier today in the shooting involving Mr. Lewis were appropriate and consistent with North Carolina law and Sheriff’s Office policies,” Flax said through a news release.

Watson, a 16-year veteran with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, will return to full duty immediately, she said.

No federal officials discharged their weapons at the home. Federal investigators are continuing their efforts to serve the search warrant at the Ash home, as part of the active and ongoing investigation involving child pornography crimes that involve cross-border activity, Cox said.

“The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has authority over things crossing over the border. That means everything from weapons trafficking and other investigations into crimes that involve cross-border activity. Child pornography is an internet-based crime, that’s being traded across borders,” Cox said. “There was no immigration component of this crime.”

The child pornography investigation continues, and could likely lead to other suspects in other locations throughout nation. However, Cox said typically investigations such as these can take weeks, or even months to develop. 

Though federal authorities have secured search warrant for the Ash home, criminal charges have been yet to be filed in the federal case.