It all started on July 8, 2015 when…
multiple Ashe County, North Carolina sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call about an intoxicated and agitated resident who had been the subject of dozens of prior police contacts.
When the deputies found the 62-year-old man, Dallas Shatley, had parked in his pickup truck at the end of a shared driveway, they showed both professionalism and restraint in the face of an angry drunk with little respect for the law.
Between them, the deputies had almost 40 years of law enforcement experience and they demonstrated that while trying to calm the subject.
The deputies were aware of an active “intense probation” order that prohibited Shatley from possessing firearms or consuming alcohol, but, while talking to him and shining a flashlight into the pickup truck, the deputies realized he had been drinking and had a rifle on the front passenger’s seat.
When the deputies spotted the rifle, Deputy Joshua Hopkins told Shatley that he was going to come around the pickup and put the rifle a short distance away, that way the encounter could continue without the risk the gun posed. The agitated Shatley began arguing and Hopkins said:
“There’s a gun right there, and we are law enforcement, and you have consumed alcohol.”
As Deputy Chris Roten began moving around the front of the truck to secure the rifle, Shatley’s right hand moved toward the gun. Hopkins yelled:
“Do not reach for it . . . Do not even go for that gun!”
But Shatley didn’t listen.
As Deputy Hopkins reached into the truck to prevent Shatley grabbing the rifle, Shatley started the truck and put it into reverse, stepping hard on the gas, with Deputy Hopkins hanging on for his life.
The truck revved loudly and lurched backward, pulling the Deputy Hopkins with it. Deputy Hopkins struggled to stay on his feet after disentangling himself from Shatley and the truck. Fearing Shatley’s next move against himself or the other deputies, Deputy Hopkins pulled his out pistol and fired three times at the driver.
As the truck came to a stop a few feet away, both deputies commanded Shatley to stop and to show his hands. Instead, he managed to put the truck into drive and it rolled forward directly at Deputy Hopkins, who was now in front of the vehicle. Both deputies fired their weapons as the two ton vehicle moved toward Hopkins.
Deputy Hopkins had seconds to make fateful and fatal decisions as an armed, intoxicated, angry man intimidated his neighbors. Shatley chose to resist law enforcement commands to surrender a rifle he was prohibited from possessing. He also used his pickup truck as a weapon against law officers and lost his life as a result.
Neighbor and witness descriptions painted a picture of a man who routinely terrorized others—including family members—and who had no regard for the law.
Despite the obvious reasonableness of the actions of three experienced law enforcement officers, a local district attorney sought and received an indictment of Deputy Hopkins for second degree murder and other charges on September 28, 2016. That’s right—a district attorney took over a year to bring outrageous charges against a sheriff’s deputy who had just seconds to make life or death decisions.
No law enforcement officer should ever face criminal charges for doing just what their training and the law expects and allows. Deputy Hopkins now faces a grueling pre-trial period where he frets over his fate and agonizes over how to pay for his defense.
His career as a law enforcement professional and his entire life are on hold.
As we have with so many others, LELDF will stand with Deputy Hopkins and do our very best to offset his mounting legal expenses. We are committed to the support of officers just like him—those who fall prey to politics, to poor judgments, and to prosecutors who ignore the rule of law and view law enforcement as the enemy.
UPDATE — MARCH 2018: A Yadkin County, North Carolina jury heard the prosecution’s case against Josh, and it heard his defense from his own mouth. The jury got the case on a Friday and by Monday afternoon it reached a unanimous verdict—NOT GUILTY!
Our friend Hoppy’s case is yet another where the lives of law enforcement officers are placed in great danger and when this deputy responded in keeping with his training and the expectations of the law, we believe he did what he had to do. Hoppy was given few choices by a drunken, aggressive, armed man who had little regard for any law or the law. Unfortunately, a politically-motivated local prosecutor opted to charge a defender while ignoring the actions of an aggressor. It will be for the voters of Ashe County, North Carolina to now judge that prosecutor. In the meanwhile, the LELDF is delighted to have helped Josh Hopkins and his legal team win a huge victory for a good man and law officer.