Crime & Courts

Gastonia police involved in 2nd fatal shooting in 2 weeks

Betty Diane Sexton, 43, of Gastonia was shot and killed by Gastonia police officer LaDoniqua Neely on Tuesday.
Betty Diane Sexton, 43, of Gastonia was shot and killed by Gastonia police officer LaDoniqua Neely on Tuesday.

On the 911 recording, Betty Dixon’s voice is garbled. Sometimes the dispatcher says she’s having a hard time understanding her. But the 3-minute call is clearly a plea for help.

“I need people out of my house,” Dixon says in the recording of Tuesday’s 911 call just before noon. “One was my boyfriend, but he’s not no more. I’ve been trying to get him to leave for days.”

Around 11:48 a.m., the dispatcher tells Dixon she’s sending officers to the Union Road home to help.

A few moments later, Dixon was dead, shot by a responding police officer, LaDoniqua Neely.

It was the second time in as many weeks that a Gastonia police officer shot and killed a person police were dispatched to help. And it’s the third officer-involved shooting in the past month in the city of more than 73,000, 25 miles west of uptown Charlotte. Gastonia police haven’t had three officer-involved shootings in one year since 1996.

Tony Underwood, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, said Sexton was carrying “a long gun” on Tuesday when she was shot and killed. He said officers had determined that they couldn’t forcibly remove the people Dixon wanted gone, and had given her details about civil actions she could take.

“They were about to leave when she apparently goes into the bedroom and then comes out with a gun,” Underwood said. “From what we know, there was nothing that provoked it or caused it. … She was given orders to drop the weapon. One shot was fired, and unfortunately Ms. Dixon didn’t survive.”

No one police questioned knows why Dixon went for the gun, Underwood said. He would not say whether Dixon pointed the gun at officers or anyone else. The investigation is ongoing.

Neely is black and Dixon is white. Police don’t believe race was an issue in the shooting.

Dixon’s family, reached Wednesday, declined to comment on the shooting.

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, but police spokeswoman Donna Lahser said: “I can tell you that it is very unusual for us to have three officer-involved shootings so close together.”

On Feb. 7, family members asked officers to check the welfare of Howard Allen, a 74-year-old Army veteran who’d recently undergone heart surgery. Police said they shot him in his Mary Avenue home when he refused to lower his gun.

Wayne Battle, Allen’s nephew who has been briefed on the case by investigators, said his uncle was in the back room of his house that night – farthest from where police made entry. Family members believe Allen, who lived alone, may have thought the officers were robbers.

“I can see how a fireman or a police officer would be met by (an) armed man who legitimately thought someone was breaking in, especially later in the evening,” Allen said. “Uncle Howard, like most seniors, was on a fixed income and did not have working central air, so he was in his room furthest from the back doors. He may have had the TV on and the space heater on and the door to the room he was in closed.”

On Jan. 17, a Gastonia police detective who had stopped at a convenience store shot and seriously injured a convicted murderer who was stabbing a night-shift clerk, investigators said.

Detective Jeff Wooten, wearing his police uniform, had just walked into the store at 310 E. Long Ave. when he saw a man attacking the store clerk with a knife, police said.

The clerk, Ryan Sherwood, was stabbed several times and suffered serious injuries.

Sherwood said the man began assaulting him without provocation. “He was clearly there to kill me,” he told WSOC-TV. “He was charging like a bull.”

Police said the attacker was Brady Alan Hines, 47, of Gastonia, who spent 15 years in prison after he was convicted in 1998 of killing his mother, Joan, in Weaverville, near Asheville, investigators said.

Wootson: 704-358-5046;

Twitter: @CleveWootson