Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle announced Wednesday afternoon a probation officer who shot an armed man in a wheelchair will not face charges. The probation officer was at the wrong address when the shooting occurred.
On December 12, 2019, Johnston County Probation Officer W.M. Cooper was attempting to perform a residence check on Holly Elizabeth Daniels, a probationer Cooper was assigned to supervise. Officer Cooper had never met Daniels or had been to her residence.
Using a cell phone app Probation and Parole uses for directions to a probationer’s address, Cooper verified Daniels’ address was 4615 Antioch Church Road. Once arriving at that location, Officer Cooper observed a mailbox for 4615 Antioch Church Road and a long, dark driveway. Cooper again checked his state-issued phone app and the picture of the residence matched the residence he observed. He did not see any other homes or a house number on the residence. He parked beside the home and began the residence check.
It was later determined that Cooper was at 4607 Antioch Church Road instead of 4615 Antioch Church Road, but at the time of the shooting, Officer Cooper believed he was at the correct address for probationer Holly Daniels, District Attorney Doyle said in a news release.
Officer Cooper arrived at the residence at 8:20pm wearing a state issued polo shirt with a badge insignia, khaki colored pants, black boots, his duty weapon, OC spray, handcuffs, a badge, and bullet proof vest with the words “Probation” labeled on the front and back.
“He knocked on the door twice and announced that he was a probation officer. No one came to the door, so Cooper began to walk back to his car. At that point, Cooper observed a side door open with what he thought was a black semi-automatic handgun pointing in the direction of his car. Cooper could not see the person holding the weapon but could see the person’s hand and arm holding the handgun. Cooper illuminated the handgun with his flashlight and yelled, “Probation officer,” very loudly,” District Attorney Doyle stated.
Cooper then drew his weapon and made commands for the individual, later identified as Jerry Dean Simmons, to drop the weapon again announcing that he was a probation officer. Simmons yelled, “Who are you?” Cooper replied by identifying himself as a probation officer. Simmons said, “Come back over here so I can f**king kill you.” Cooper again stated that he was a probation officer and told Simmons to drop his weapon.
Officer Cooper then called Johnston County Communications to request backup. Cooper continued to announce he was a probation officer and urged Simmons to look at his car, stating he was there for Holly Daniels. Cooper then observed a woman open the front door. Cooper told the woman, later identified as Simmons’ wife, Leslie Simmons, that he was a probation officer.
Cooper said he heard Leslie Simmons yell to her husband, “Jerry, he’s an officer. He’s a cop.”
Cooper realized that Mr. Simmons had retreated inside his home. He then observed Jerry Simmons, on the left side of his home, rolling down a wheelchair ramp quickly with his hand on a gun in his lap. When Cooper observed the gun and saw Simmons quickly advancing he illuminated him with his flashlight and yelled, “Drop your weapon, drop your weapon.” Simmons replied, “I ain’t dropping sh*t.”
The district attorney said Simmons raised the gun and pointed the gun towards Officer Cooper. Cooper fired his service weapon striking Simmons in the leg. Simmons then fell to the ground and his son, Cooper Simmons, ran to his father’s aid. Simmons was transported by EMS to WakeMed where he was treated for a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
The NC SBI investigated the shooting and turned over their findings to District Attorney Doyle. The findings included key points that Jerry Simmons suffers from various medical conditions requiring him to use a wheelchair, causes him to be hard of hearing, and causes him to have difficulty seeing, including double vision.
Deputy Sheriff John Richardson who responded to the scene noted that Simmons had slurred speech and had a very strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath.
In the news release District Attorney Doyle said, “I have concluded that under the circumstances observed by Probation Officer (W.M.) Cooper, his use of force was both reasonable and warranted. Cooper was legally justified in his use of force. As a result, no criminal charges against Cooper will be filed related to this incident.”
2019 scene photos by John Payne