Gastonia police sent to check on the welfare of a 74-year-old man shot and killed him in his home late Saturday after he confronted them with a gun, police said.
Police were called to the home of James Howard Allen about 10 p.m. Saturday because a relative of Allen’s in Anson County was worried about his condition, Gastonia police Chief Robert Helton said during a Sunday morning press conference.
Police and medical personnel regularly conduct such visits, known as welfare checks, upon request.
Anson County authorities contacted the Gastonia Police Department to conduct a welfare check on Allen, of 2704 Mary Ave., Gastonia, police said. Helton said Allen had recently undergone surgery and family members were concerned about his well-being.
Allen, an Army veteran, had heart surgery last week, his sister told WSOC-TV. “I am so hurt that he had to die like this,” she told the station. “Maybe the police were frightened. Maybe they were. I don’t know. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
An officer arrived at the address, but there was no answer at the door at 10:20 p.m. and the officer left, police said. At 11:08 p.m., Anson County authorities requested a check of local hospitals, police said.
Gaston County officials checked area hospitals and did not find Allen, police said. Neighbors told police that the last time they saw Allen was the day before. “His car was present at the residence,” Helton said.
At 11:30 p.m., Gastonia police officers asked for assistance from the Gastonia Fire Department and Gaston Emergency Medical Services to check on Allen’s house again, police said.
“A decision was made to enter the house, concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance,” Helton said.
The Fire Department helped enter through the back door of the house, and Gastonia police Officer Josh Lefevers announced his presence, Helton said.
When officers entered, they found Allen holding a handgun and pointing it toward the officers, Helton said. “He was challenged to lower the gun down,” Helton said. “The gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him.”
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate. Upon completion, the SBI’s findings will be presented to the Gaston County District Attorney’s Office, Helton said.
Lefevers was hired by the Gastonia Police Department on Aug. 6, 2012, and is assigned to the patrol division. He has been placed on administrative leave, and the Police Department is conducting an administrative investigation, which is standard procedure in shootings involving officers.
On Sunday, neighbors remembered Allen as a kind neighbor. Maxine Gibbie said Allen and her husband used to work together at the old Firestone Mill in Gastonia about three decades ago.
“He was a nice person,” she said. “I think everybody around here liked Mr. Allen. He never gave any reason to think he’d bother you or anything. He was a good person.”
She added that she often saw people coming to visit him and that he seemed to have a lot of friends. “He didn’t have a lot of people in and out all the time, but he did have company, and I guess they’d come to check on him,” she said.
Gibbie described Allen as a “good neighbor” who even helped his next-door neighbor cut his bushes and do other yardwork, although in recent years it was harder for him to walk.
“He could hardly get around. He had some health problems,” she said. “He was real feeble. I could tell that when he’d go up the steps.”