By Jesse Wood
Aug. 27, 2013. District Attorney Tom Horner (23rd District) has exonerated the three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Walter Mark Houck last November, according to a Aug. 23 letter from Horner to Special Agent in Charge Paula Carson of the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
The incident occurred at 11 p.m. on Nov. 19, when deputies from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and one officer with the West Jefferson Police Department responded to reports of an individual shooting from a residence on Gaither Poe Road in the Laurel Springs area of Ashe County.
Upon arriving on the scene, officers encountered Houck armed with a rifle and scope. Ashe County Sheriff’s Deputies Joshua Hopkins, Jeremy Mundy and West Jefferson Police officer Jake Howell fired their weapons after Houck refused to put his weapon down and began pointing his weapon at the officers, according to a release from the Avery County Sheriff’s Office in November.
The officers were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the completion of an SBI investigation into the matter. At the time, Ashe County Sheriff James Williams expressed “complete confidence in all the officers involved and [was] satisfied that they followed department policy and their training protocols.”
In the Aug. 23 letter, Horner noted that the extensive investigation involved an autopsy and toxicological analysis.
“After reviewing this file and consulting with Chief Assistant District Attorney Leigh Bricker about the facts of this investigation, it is both of our opinions that there was no conduct [by the officers involved] in the shooting of Mr. Houck and that under circumstances that the above mentioned law enforcement officers found themselves in, the shooting was justified under the law,” Horner wrote.