Wednesday, July 24, 2024

‘Senseless acts of lawlessness’: 1 dead, 3 on paid administrative leave from overnight shooting

Sheriff Ed McMahon and District Attorney Ben David at a press conference hosted Friday regarding an overnight shooting that took place at Kerr Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. (Courtesy WECT livestream)

[Update: On July 19, the DA’s office announced the three officers involved in the shooting of Steven Ryan Todd will not be charged. Read the full update here.]

WILMINGTON — An officer-involved shooting has left one person deceased and three law enforcement personnel on paid administrative leave after a suspect attempted to flee and put officials in harm’s way.

Multiple law enforcement agencies were looking for 34-year-old Steven Ryan Todd on Thursday into the early morning hours of Friday, after the Wilmington Police Department attempted to detain him at the Castle Street boat ramp earlier in the afternoon. Todd — who had stolen a truck, boat and two firearms — had multiple felony warrants for his arrest.

Around midnight on June 14, a traffic stop by sheriff’s deputies resulted in Todd steering the truck into a head-on collision with a sheriff’s vehicle, before crashing into a utility pole. Officers, fearing for their safety, opened fire on Todd, who sustained injuries. EMS was called immediately as detectives attempted life-saving measures, but Todd died at the scene.

In a press conference Friday, Sheriff Ed McMahon and District Attorney Ben David said the State Bureau of Investigation had been called immediately, as standard when there is an officer-involved shooting. 

“The protocol never changes,” David said. “We call for an outside, independent investigation.”

The SBI will look into the case to ensure the officers were justified in opening fire; three have been put on paid administrative leave as the investigation is completed.

Special agent Chris Brenzel oversaw the early morning scene, the DA noted.

McMahon said the suspect was well-known to law enforcement. He was just released from jail on May 28 according to Lieutenant Jerry Brewer, who said arrests go back years, including larcenies and motor vehicle theft.

“These were senseless acts of lawlessness that were geared against not only the community, but against our law enforcement,” McMahon said. “I am very proud of our detectives, once again, putting themselves in harm’s way to keep this community safe.”

Thursday afternoon around 5 p.m., an off-duty sheriff deputy noticed a truck matching a stolen description issued by the Wilmington Police Department. The WPD was investigating a boat, truck and firearms, stolen from a fenced-in yard at a residence within city limits.

Steven Ryan Todd was shot and killed by officers in the early morning hours Friday after he ran a stolen truck into a head-on collision with a sheriff’s vehicle. (Courtesy photo)

Officers located Todd at the Castle Street boat ramp but then he fled, “attempting to run over the detective and leading WPD officers on a short chase,” David detailed.

The boat and trailer were left behind.

However, WPD quashed the chase in order to execute felony warrants and prevent a dangerous situation from escalating further. Officers noted Todd was armed. 

“I want to compliment the men and women of law enforcement for doing that in order to preserve the safety of the public and the other officers as a result of that chase — and getting enough information of who that suspect was,” David said.

WPD dispatched the charges — assault with a deadly weapon, fleeing to avoid arrest, assault on a government official, and possession of a stolen motor vehicle — and descriptions to agencies, also notifying the suspect may be armed and dangerous. Hours later, sheriff’s detectives on the search for the truck located it and attempted a traffic stop at Kerr Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, which resulted in the crash and open-fire.

The area was closed off to traffic for hours overnight.

“A loaded firearm was located in the vehicle with the suspect,” David said, later detailing there was a shotgun and a handgun. “That was part of what the officers knew to be stolen and in that truck … when they first encountered that suspect at the Castle Street ramp.” 

WECT reported there were around 40 bullet holes in the truck and the suspect also brandished a weapon. However, the DA and sheriff could not give more details on the incident, due to the investigation, citing interviews must take place among the officers involved and the SBI.

“What you always try to do is, you view this from the officer’s perspective, standing in the shoes, not with the benefit of hindsight, in a rapidly evolving situation,” David said. “You look for what a similarly situated officer would do, and you also make sure that if there’s multiple accounts, they’re individually interviewed.”

The DA said dash cam footage is not available as many officers that arrived were undercover or in vehicles without cameras installed. However, he said there are “cooperating witnesses” that did capture video.

“We’re obviously looking in the area for any commercial establishments that might have caught that,” David added. “If anyone has any information, obviously, we encourage them to work with the SBI so that we can know the full details.”

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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