Johnston County Deputy Cleared In Hotel Shooting

District Attorney Susan Doyle announced today a Johnston County deputy sheriff will not face any charges in the 2019 shooting of a man wanted on sexual assault charges.

On December 4, 2019, Johnston County deputies responded to WoodSpring Suites near the 40/42 interchange in the Cleveland community to attempt to serve 19 arrest warrants on Bruce Wayne Vaughan (aka Bruce Wayne Vaughn) of Sanford.

Vaughan refused to answer the door and barricaded himself inside the room. Vaughan’s family members notified deputies he was in the room, that he had been drinking, and he was threatening to kill himself, according to a report released Wednesday by the District Attorney’s Office.

Deputies continued to talk to Vaughan through the hotel room door trying to convince him to come out. A family member texted a patrol captain a picture of Vaughan sitting in a chair with a gun on his lap.  The family member told the officer that Vaughan had just texted that picture from the hotel room.  There were also multiple beer bottles seen on the floor.

The report stated that deputies could hear Vaughan talking to a family member on a cell phone inside the room and he was growing more and more agitated.  Vaughan yelled obscenities to the officers stating he would not come out and they would have to come in and get him.  After all negotiations to surrender failed, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office STAR Team was summoned to the scene.

Deputies obtained a search warrant and STAR Team members made entry into the room. Officers knocked on the door three times and shouted “Sheriff’s Office, Search Warrant!” Lt. Jack Coats was the first STAR Team member to enter the room, holding a shield.  Vaughan reached for the firearm in the chair next to him.  Vaughan then turned towards Lt. Coats with the gun and pointed it at the officer.

Lt. Coats fired two shots at Vaughan. Officers administering first aid until EMS arrived.  Vaughan sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh where he was treated and later released into the custody of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, where he was wanted on charges of statutory sex offense with a child, child abuse, indecent liberties with a minor and incest.

District Attorney Doyle said state law authorizes a law enforcement officer to use deadly force upon another person to defend himself or a third person from what the officer believes to be the imminent use of deadly physical force or the effect an arrest of a person who by his conduct presents an imminent threat of death or serious injury unless apprehended without delay.

“Officers must often make split-second decisions regarding their use of force. Under the circumstances observed by Lt. Jack Coats, his use of force was both reasonable and warranted. Vaughan presented an imminent threat of death or serious injury when Vaughan grabbed his gun and pointed it directed at Coats,” Doyle stated Wednesday.

“After a thorough review of the SBI report and meeting with the investigating officer, Special Agent Michael S. Ludwig, I have concluded that Lt. Coats was legally justified in his use of force. As a result, no criminal charges against Lt. Coats will be filled related to this incident,” District Attorney Doyle stated in a release.

According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office,  Vaughan was indicted on the sex charges by a Lee County Grand Jury on November 27, 2019 and fled from his home in Sanford before he could be located and arrested.  A tip led to his located in Johnston County on December 4, 2019.

On January 27, 2019, additional sex charges against Vaughan were filed, bringing the total sex offense charges to 58. He was confined that same day in the Lee County Jail under a $19 million bond.