Macon County Deputy Sheriff Anthony Wade Momphard, Jr. has been cleared by District Attorney Greg Newman of any criminal prosecution in the shooting death of Michael Scott Knibbs on May 1, 2018. “I accepted this case from the District Attorney for Macon County, Ashley Welch, when she advised me that she wanted to avoid any potential conflict of interest or an appearance of impropriety. I studied the evidence provided by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, consulted with the SBI agents involved, as well as senior members of my investigation staff and lawyers, and have concluded that Deputy Momphard was justified in his use of force that resulted in the death of Mr. Knibbs, “ said Mr. Newman. “North Carolina law permits all law enforcement officers in our state to use their firearms to defend themselves and this deputy had the barrel of a shotgun pointed at his head at close range. He reacted in the only way that he could given the circumstances,” added Newman.
Deputy Momphard was sent by the sheriff’s office to Pheasant Drive in Franklin just minutes before midnight on a report of a dispute between neighbors. Records show that he arrived at 164 Pheasant Drive at 11:55 pm. He had to stop his marked cruiser due to an obstruction in the roadway. The deputy described the obstruction as two boards stacked on top of one another. He then saw several boards in the roadway that appeared to be carefully measured between each other. Momphard approached the front of the Knibbs’ residence at 164 Pheasant Drive and announced his presence as “Macon County Sheriff’s Office.” When he received no response, he walked to the back of the home and knocked loudly on the back door and again announced that he was with the sheriff’s office. Again, there was no response, and the deputy saw the next door home up the hill and approached it on foot. The actual caller to the sheriff’s office lived at that home, which is 224 Pheasant Drive. One of the residents, Shelton Freeman, met the deputy and explained that the call came from him because one of his friends could not drive on the roadway due to the boards placed there by Scott Knibbs. Mr. Freeman and his two roomates, T.J. Brown and Tiffany Austin, had only lived at the residence for less than a month.
According to Mr. Freeman, his two roomates and him were having a cookout that evening. Most of his friends had arrived earlier in the evening, but one of his friends came at around 11 pm and mistakenly drove into Mr. Knibb’s driveway. Scott Knibbs came out of a shed and asked the person if he was there to buy pills. The person said he was looking for his friend’s home and Mr. Knibb’s became aggressive and told him to get off his property. Knibbs kicked this person’s car as he drove off. According to the interview of Knibbs’ wife, Mr. Knibbs told her that he shoved the young man back into his car.
At approximately 11:30 pm, one of the visitors at the cookout left to go home, only to return to 224 Pheasant to state that she could not leave due to several boards with nails placed in the roadway in front of Knibbs’ home. Mr. Freeman and at least two of his friends walked down the road to inspect the situation and observed at least four rows of double stacked boards placed in the road as speed bumps. There were nails visible in the boards, but they were not sticking straight up like a stop strip. The decision was made to call the Sheriff’s department instead of removing the boards. Mr. Freeman later told investigators that in the short time he had lived at Pheasant Drive, there had been some uncomfortable contacts with Mr. Knibbs. These included Knibbs telling the residents to shut their dogs up from barking or he would shut them up, showing up intoxicated at Freeman’s home and also making an obscene gesture to the person mowing the yard for Freeman.
After speaking with the deputy sheriff about the road obstruction, Deputy Momphard and Mr. Freeman walked towards the Knibbs’ residence. Mr. Freeman was going to remove the boards and the deputy attempted a second contact with the Knibbs. When approaching the front door, Deputy Momphard again announced himself as “Macon County Sheriff’s Office.” This was corroborated by both Mr. Freeman and by Knibbs’ wife, who told SBI agents that she heard the deputy identify himself.
As Deputy Momphard approached the door, he heard someone “rack” a round in a shotgun. Momphard immediately shouted for the person to put the weapon down. He shouted this instruction at least three times. This admonition was heard by everyone up the road at 224 Pheasant, as well as Ms. Knibbs inside residence. The deputy stepped to the side of the door and shined his flashlight into a window next to the door. He saw a man pointing a shotgun at his upper torso or head. The deputy backed away and began shooting through the window. He then entered the Knibbs’ home and saw Mr. Knibbs face down on the floor. Ms. Knibbs came into the room screaming and the Knibbs’ daughter came in screaming as well. The only light in the room at the time came from Momphard’s flashlight. He told the two women to stand back and to keep their hands where he could see them. He called for backup and EMS and then allowed Ms. Knibbs to approach and to check on her husband.
Other officers, including Macon County Sheriff Holland, arrived and medical personnel attended to Knibbs, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Momphard fired six shots from his service revolver. The shotgun possessed by Knibbs was loaded and taken by law enforcement as evidence. The medical examiner conducted an autopsy of Mr. Knibbs’ body at the Harris Regional Hospital and confirmed the cause of death to be two gunshot wounds. One wound was in the right chest and one through the upper right arm.
“Three things stand out to me in this case, “ stated Mr. Newman. “ One, we want people to call law enforcement in these situations to avoid confrontations with neighbors or anyone else. So I applaud Mr. Freeman for requesting the intervention of the sheriff’s department. Two, Deputy Momphard’s actions were justifiable in every aspect. His only option was to defend himself given that Mr. Knibbs racked his shotgun and pointed it at the deputy after repeated commands to drop the weapon. This incident took place in the middle of the night with little to no lighting. Third, Ms. Knibbs stated in her interview that she heard the deputy announce himself as her husband walked toward the door and racked his firearm.”
“This entire incident is a tragedy and the deputy certainly did not anticipate these events,” added Newman. “ In his interview with the SBI, the deputy said that he expected this call would be simple to address. He had responded to right of way disputes before and thought this occasion would be routine. He would speak to the participants and hopefully resolve the issue. The use of his firearm is not what he intended, but he handled the situation in the only way he could. These deputies are called into service in the middle of the night, usually alone, and are at great risk for their safety. Deputy Momphard has a wife and two children and he deserves to finish his shift and return home to his family. I appreciate the dedicated service to our communities of Deputy Momphard and all law enforcement officers, wherever they serve,” said Newman.
The District Attorney further added, “I have contacted the attorney for the Knibbs’ family and advised him of my decision. As always, I will make my file available for review to him and members of the Knibbs family if they so choose. I have recommended to Sheriff Holland that Deputy Momphard be returned to active duty whenever he feels it appropriate.