Crime & Courts

Standoff with armed suspect preceded officer being shot. But police won’t say who fired.

In the moments before a police officer was shot last week during a pre-dawn FBI operation in north Charlotte, law enforcement officers confronted a suspected drug dealer armed with a handgun, according to newly released documents.

But authorities refused to say who fired the shot that injured a Gastonia police officer, who was working alongside FBI agents and two Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers.

Documents made public Monday don’t say if the criminal suspect fired his weapon.

CMPD has placed Officer Heather Loveridge on administrative leave, which is standard procedure for department officers who shoot someone. Loveridge has worked as a patrol officer with CMPD since June 2017.

Police have not said if Loveridge shot the Gastonia police officer.

CMPD spokesperson Rob Tufano also refused to comment.

Tufano referred a reporter to a press release the department issued Friday, which said that CMPD would conduct an internal investigation to determine if any department policies or procedures were violated.

FBI spokesperson Shelley Lynch refused to answer questions about whether the incident is being investigated as a friendly-fire shooting, saying the case remains under investigation.

The target of last week’s FBI operation, Larry McConneyhead, 47, appeared in federal court in uptown Charlotte for an initial hearing Monday.

McConneyhead faces charges of conspiracy to distribute drugs, including more than five kilograms of cocaine, possession of a firearm in connection with drug trafficking and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.

Documents show that federal authorities accused him of being a ranking member of the Charlotte-based “Biker Gang,” which allegedly distributes large quantities of drugs.

Agents have been investigating McConneyhead since 2016, records say. They used an informant who allegedly purchased drugs from him repeatedly, documents say.

On Friday, authorities went to a home on Oakburn Drive in north Charlotte shortly after 6 a.m. to execute a search warrant.

The Gastonia officer and two CMPD officers, were working with FBI agents as part of the Safe Streets Task Force, which focuses on gangs, drugs and organized crime.

As law enforcement arrived, documents say, McConneyhead was rolling a trash can to the edge of the property. When police approached, he retreated to the house, records say.

When law enforcement officers opened a door to the home, documents say, McConneyhead confronted them with a handgun.

“He was pointing a handgun at the law enforcement team members, so one of them shouted ‘Gun!’ resulting in one of the law enforcement officials being shot several times,” records say.

Documents do not detail how law enforcement officers apprehended McConneyhead.

Authorities have not released the name of the Gastonia police officer who was shot. They have said he suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Fred Clasen-Kelly covers government accountability for The Charlotte Observer, with a focus on social justice. He has worked in Charlotte more than a decade reporting on affordable housing, criminal justice and other issues. He previously worked at the Indianapolis Star.