Police standoff ends peacefully

Published 12:21 am Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Officials with the Washington Police Department and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office coordinate their plans during a June 15 standoff on East 12th Street in Washington. (WDN File Photo/Sara Cowell)

A Washington residential neighborhood was locked down for more than nine daytime hours Wednesday, June 15, as law enforcement officials were involved in a standoff with a local resident who was allegedly armed and making threats.

The story was selected by the Daily News as the 10th most significant story for 2011.

The standoff, which began around 8 a.m. in the 300 block of East 12th Street, ended peacefully when Joseph Gary Gautier was taken into custody shortly before 5 p.m. Gautier, 33, was transported to the Beaufort County Medical Center for evaluation following the incident. The following week, Gautier was arrested and charged with making a false bomb report (a felony), discharging a firearm in the city limits and communicating threats. He was placed in the Beaufort County Detention Center under a $250,000 bond but was released after posting bail.

The arrest warrant for making a false bomb report and discharging a firearm in the city read that Gautier “did communicate a report by calling the Washington Police Department … knowing and having reason to know the report to be false and there was located in a house the doors were booby trapped with grenades and his backyard has ordinances (ordnance) a device designed to destroy and damage the house by explosion, blasting and burning.”

The June 15 warrant also noted that Magistrate Donald R. Sadler found probable cause that Gautier fired a 30-caliber Ruger handgun into the air and ground while in the city limits.

The arrest warrant for communicating threats read, “The threat was communicated to Cliff Hales by telling him ‘I see you and I’m going in my house to get my 7mm to shoot you, your vest won’t stop anything I got.’ He also fired a weapon in the air and advised Cliff Hales ‘The next one’s gonna be in your head.’”

The June 20 warrant also indicated that “the threat was made in a manner and under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the threat was likely to be carried out and the person threatened believed that the threat would be carried out.”

Making a bomb threat in North Carolina is a Class H felony. The presumptive prison term for a Class H felony is up to three years in prison, unless otherwise specified by state law, according to North Carolina’s General Statutes.

Communicating threats is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. A city ordinance prohibits the discharge of firearms in the city limits, except in specific situations such as defending one’s self or one’s property.

The charges against Gautier are still pending.

Also arrested by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office during the standoff was Joseph Carter Leary, a relative of Gautier who lives near the standoff scene, according to Washington Police Chief Mick Reed and neighbors.

A charge of resisting a pubic officer against Leary was dismissed by District Court Judge Regina Parker on Oct. 31 when witnesses returned to the courtroom in violation of the court’s order that they be sequestered during the trial.

Mike Voss contributed to this report