JEFFERSON-Buried near the bottom of a 32-page petition to remove Terry Buchanan from the office of sheriff resides a tidbit of information that could have major repercussions in an upcoming homicide trial.
In the petition, which was presented to a district judge as the premises for his removal, the state outlines Buchanan’s alleged willful misconduct and maladministration in office that includes disclosing information regarding the settlement of a civil lawsuit that had been brought against the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office. The state argues that such disclosure can potentially prejudice a pending homicide case.
During public comment of the April 17 Ashe County Board of Commissioners meeting, Buchanan provided previously unreported details of the settlement that was reached with the family of Walter Mark Houck, who died during an officer involved shooting in November 2012. According to Buchanan, a settlement that exceeded $300,000 was reached in the civil case.
Houck, 47, died Nov. 19, 2012, after being shot nine times by officers, according to an autopsy report issued by Wake Forest University’s Department of Pathology.
Each of the officers involved in the shooting, including Josh Hopkins, were exonerated in that shooting by District Attorney Tom Horner. Despite the state findings, the Houck family proceeded with a civil suit against the officers involved in the shooting.
Hopkins is currently awaiting trial on second degree murder charges in another officer involved shooting death that centers on the interactions of sheriff’s deputies and Dallas Shatley, who was killed during an exchange with deputies in July 2015.
By disclosing the terms of the Houck shooting, which also involved Hopkins, Buchanan could have potentially prejudice the pending trial involving Shatley, the state argues.
Hopkins, along with former sheriff James Williams and Chris Roten, is also facing a civil suit from the Shatley family.
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164.