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Salisbury, NC Police have identified a young man killed in a shootout with officers early Sunday.
Alphonso Leroy Howard Simmons Jr., 20, of 801 Grace St., died after being shot multiple times. Police officers say he fired at them first.
Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said this morning he is not yet prepared to release the names of the three officers who fired at Simmons. He did not explain why, except to say the State Bureau of Investigation is conducting inquiry, standard procedure when an officer shoots someone.
The shooting happened at Civic Apartments, at 715 Hall St., near the J.C. Price American Legion Post.
According to police, Simmons was a suspect in an armed robbery.
He was being pursued by one officer when he rounded a corner of the apartments and found himself facing three other officers.
Police say Simmons produced a handgun and shot at officers, who then returned fire. Simmons was killed instantly.
According to police, the incident began at 2:09 a.m. when a woman called 911, saying she had been robbed at gunpoint while pumping gasoline at the Rushco station at Jake Alexander Boulevard and Mooresville Road.
She told dispatchers four men involved in the robbery drove away in a white Toyota Camry. The woman gave the dispatcher a partial license number and said one of the vehicle's windows was broken out and covered with plastic.
Another witness said he saw the suspect vehicle behind Harris Teeter, near the intersection of Jake Alexander Boulevard and Brenner Avenue and not far from Civic Apartments.
Shortly, police found a car matching the description of the suspect vehicle in the apartment complex.
Accompanied by a Rowan County sheriff's deputy, police officers approached the door of the apartment to inquire about the vehicle was parked out front.
When officers knocked on the front door, a male exited through the back door. An officer who was stationed at the rear of the apartment spoke to the man, who then ran around the side of the building toward the front.
That's where he confronted the three officers and the shooting ensued.


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North Carolina Chief Defends Officers' Actions In Deadly Shooting

The state is investigating a deadly police-involved shooting in Salisbury as friends set up a memorial for the man killed at a Hall Street apartment complex.
Police said four men robbed a woman at a convenience store at the intersection of Jake Alexander Boulevard and Mooresville Road and they tracked the vehicle involved in the robbery to a nearby apartment complex.
Investigators said when they knocked on the door of the apartment nearest the car, 20-year-old Al Simmons Jr. ran out the back door and around the side of the apartment complex. Police said he fired shots at officers, forcing them to fire back. Simmons was struck multiple times and died at the scene.
One officer said one of Simmons’ shots came so close to hitting him that he could hear the bullet whiz past his ear.
Salisbury police Chief Mark Wilhelm said he’s saddened by what happened, but he believes his officers’ lives were in danger and they had no choice but to shoot back.
“When it happens in your department, it really hits home that we could be preparing for a funeral for one of our officers rather than investigating the fact that they shot someone,” he said.
Bishop Kevin Bost said he knew Simmons well and he’s disappointed by his death.
“If you're running from an officer, give yourself up. Don't take it to the point where something like this has got to happen. We're praying for the family, that they make it through it," he said.
Agents from the State Bureau of Investigation are looking into the shooting but Wilhelm said he has no reason to believe his officers did anything wrong.
“Bottom line is it does happen here. It can and will. We're very fortunate no one died on our side. It's unfortunate they had to take the life of someone else,” he said.
The officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave, per department protocol.
Police said they are still trying to identify the three other men involved in the robbery. Simmons leaves behind four children.

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