Asheville police chief William Anderson was among officers at the scene of an incident Sunday off New Leicester Highway in which an officer shot and killed a suspect. The highway was closed for four hours during the investigation. Sabian Warren / firstname.lastname@example.org
Written By: Sabian Warren
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (ACT) - An Asheville police officer shot and killed former Reynolds High School football star A.J. Marion on Sunday morning after police say he was involved in a break-in and fired a gun as he was being chased by officers.
Marion, 19, who was a star running back at Reynolds and played on the Rockets' 2009 state championship team, was wounded after being struck by a single bullet and died later at Mission Hospital, authorities and witnesses said.
The shooting happened in a wooded area beside Ascension Drive at The Meadows Apartments, just off New Leicester Highway.
Police closed New Leicester Highway for more than four hours as they processed the scene.
Police responded to a call for a burglary in progress at about 7:30 a.m. at an occupied home on King Arthur Place in the Camelot neighborhood. When officers arrived, the suspect - Marion - fled on foot, pursued by several officers.
"A foot chase took place that lasted for a while throughout the neighborhood," police chief William Anderson said. "It ended with police confronting the suspect, and the suspect was shot and killed."
Anderson noted, "We know there was at least one shot fired" by Marion at some point during the chase - but before he was cornered in the woods on Ascension Drive. Police recovered a handgun along the chase route. Anderson said he couldn't comment on whether Marion pointed the gun at officers when he fired.
An officer shot Marion after "he refused to comply with multiple commands from APD officers," according to a statement from police Sgt. Dave Romick.
The burglary victim was not injured, and no officers were injured, Romick said.
Police declined to identify the officer who fired the fatal shot, but he was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Romick said. As is usual in an officer-involved shooting, the SBI is the lead agency reviewing the shooting. Asheville police also will conduct an internal investigation, Romick said.
A Meadows Apartments resident who lives near the shooting scene said he and his roommates were awakened by shouting near their apartment. Their view was partially obscured by trees, but they could see police and hear officers shouting commands, resident Sam Tyson said.
Tyson also heard Marion shouting but couldn't make out what he was saying.
"It was real garbled, but it sounded like the suspect," Tyson said. "It sounded like he was really agitated, and there was yelling from him. There was shouting for about three seconds (from Marion) before the shot went off. It became more quiet after that."
Residents who live near the King Arthur Place home that was burglarized were surprised at the incident.
"It's a pretty quiet neighborhood," said John Becker, who lives across the street. "People just keep to themselves. There are always kids playing out here."
"It's a nice neighborhood," said his wife, Corey Becker. "I've never felt there was anything to worry about."
But the Beckers said police dressed in assault gear raided the home that was burglarized within the past year, though they didn't know what the action was about.
A man at the home declined to comment. Police were at the home much of the day Sunday.
Marion's death sent shock waves through the community. Shane Laws, Marion's coach at Reynolds, said he had kept in touch with Marion and had spoken with him last week. Marion, who graduated from high school in 2012, was interested in trying to play college football, Laws said.
"He was a wonderful kid who I loved being around and loved coaching," Laws said. "I don't know how or why he got into the situation he was in, but I hate it for his family and a lot of other people in this community. There are a lot of people he touched. It's just tragic that we lost him that way."
Marion was a key player on the Rockets' championship team in 2009 as a sophomore. He rushed for 1,815 yards and 24 touchdowns his junior year and was offered a scholarship by East Carolina in the middle of that season. But a serious knee injury his senior year derailed his season and his college plans.
"He had a great personality and a great sense of humor," Laws said. "He was highly competitive on Friday night. He really wanted to win."