KERNERSVILLE — A Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a man during a hostage situation outside Kernersville on Thursday morning, said Christina Howell, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
The incident occurred in the 6300 block of Old Valley School Road. The dead man was identified as James Phillip White Jr., 48, of Kernersville.
Authorities said White was shot after he came after deputies with a sledgehammer inside his home. Deputies and emergency medical workers rendered aid, and the man was taken to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
The incident unfolded after residents of Valleydale Lane nearby had found a man who turned out to be White sleeping in a car in their neighborhood. Deputies were called to come and check up on the man.
Before deputies arrived, White drove away and ended up at his house on Old Valley School Road. Howell said a deputy found White, who ran away until the deputy caught up with him. The suspect then physically assaulted the deputy and was able to get away, going inside his house nearby.
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Authorities said White barricaded himself inside his home. A woman described as the suspect’s “significant other” was inside the house too, and she became a hostage. The woman texted neighbors to say that the man would not let her leave.
At that point, authorities brought in crisis negotiators and a team that specializes in high-risk arrests. Deputies evacuated residents from nearby houses. Meanwhile, authorities had learned the suspect had multiple outstanding orders for arrest originating in Guilford County.
White also had a lengthy criminal record in Forsyth County, and in fact was slated to appear in court on June 9 in Winston-Salem on a charge of possession of methamphetamines made on Nov. 12, 2022.
On Thursday, deputies gave White multiple commands to come out of the house, but authorities said he refused to comply and barricaded himself in a room with the woman.
Law enforcement officers decided to force entry into the back door of the house, Howell said. As officers were making entry to the house, Howell said, White came out of the room he was in and came at the deputies with a sledgehammer. Deputies tried to use tasers on the man without success.
A deputy fired one shot, killing the man, Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough told reporters Thursday morning, during a press conference within sight of the crime scene.
The hostage wasn’t harmed.
As is normal, the deputy who fired the shot has been placed on administrative leave, Howell said. The sheriff’s office isn’t identifying the deputy.
“It is no small thing to take a man’s life even if it’s ultimately to protect the lives of others,” Howell said.
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting, which is standard procedure in such incidents. Kimbrough said the sheriff’s office is doing an internal investigation of the shooting.
Middle of the road
The sheriff’s office said it received the call about 8:12 a.m. from the Valleydale Lane resident who reported finding the man asleep in his car, a white Ford Fusion. The caller said the car was running but that the man at the wheel did not respond when the caller banged on the car window to wake him up.
Heather Pack, who helps her family manage the ValleyDale Mobile Home Estates on Valleydale Lane, said she was driving into the mobile home park Thursday morning and noticed the Ford Fusion parked in a curve in the center of the road.
When Pack approached, a woman who lives in one of the park’s mobile homes had come out and was trying to wake up the driver.
The woman told Pack the man had been there in his car since 5 a.m.
“She came out, and was shaking him and saying, ‘You need to wake up, you’re sitting in the middle of the road,’” Pack said. “It was just weird. It was something suspicious. You don’t just sit with your car running and your foot on the brake. He said, ‘I’m taking a nap.’”
Pack said the man seemed disoriented when he woke up. After he woke, she said, he drove out of the mobile home park. Shortly afterward, a deputy showed up at the mobile home park, speeding off shortly afterward with its siren on and blue lights flashing.
Pack said she had seen the white Ford Focus driving through the mobile home park on previous occasions. One of the residents had previously noticed the car too, and had told Pack she was going to keep an eye out for it in case it came back through.
“We kind of keep a watch on everything,” Pack said. “This is a good, clean park. There is no trouble.”
Court records show that White had a lengthy criminal record, dating back to 1991.
White served two years and seven months in prison, after he was convicted in June 2018 of felony hit and run in Forsyth Superior Court, a state corrections record shows.
The most recent order for arrest for White out of Guilford County was issued April 11 of this year on pending charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of stolen property, according to court records. The date of offense for those charges was listed as Feb. 23, 2022.
There was another 2022 case against White involving a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
In court documents regarding bond, White was ordered to have no contact with an individual and Kerwin Baptist Church. The documents also noted that White’s prior convictions included, in part, charges of DWI, two counts of felony hit and run, two counts of larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of stolen goods, two counts of flee/elude and several breaking and entering charges. Details about those cases were not immediately available.
Reporter Annette Ayres contributed to this report