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Macon deputy cleared in Knibbs shooting

Scott Knibbs. Scott Knibbs.

Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Wade Momphard Jr. will not face any criminal charges after he shot and killed Scott Knibbs inside his home just after midnight April 30. 

District Attorney Ashley Welch recused herself of the case last month to avoid any potential conflict of interest and asked 29th Judicial District Attorney Greg Newman in Hendersonville to review the SBI report and make the final call. 

“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,” Newman wrote in a press release sent out Aug 1. “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.”

Waynesville attorney Mark Melrose, who was retained shortly after the shooting to represent the Knibbs family, said all he could say at this time is that the family is disappointed in Newman’s decision not to prosecute. He is unsure whether the family will want to pursue a civil case against the deputy or the sheriff’s office.

“We will be meeting with the family to decide the appropriate course of action in light of this development,” Melrose said. 

Sheriff Robert Holland said he would now begin an internal investigation into the deadly shooting since the SBI and the DA have concluded their reports. The investigation will look at whether department protocol and procedure was followed during the incident.

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“As the Macon County Sheriff’s Office had no part in the SBI investigation, I am just now beginning the process of being able to review the case file and all findings. Therefore, I will not comment further as to the facts and evidence until a later date,” Holland wrote in a prepared statement. 

Holland and the DA’s office have endured quite a bit of push back and accusations from the public as well as Knibbs’ defense team since the incident. However, the pending investigation has prevented him from talking specifics about the case. At the end of the day, he says it’s a tragedy with no winners. 

“The shooting of Michael Scott Knibbs by Macon County Deputy Anthony Momphard, which occurred on April 30, 2018, has been a very difficult situation for everyone involved. We have seen our community divided by this incident and we have heard a lot of speculation as to the facts of the case,” Holland said. “From the onset of this incident, we have intentionally released very little information to the public due to the fact that a full and unbiased investigation needed to be completed first. Now that details of the occurrences on the night of April 29 and the early morning hours of April 30 have been released, there are clear answers as to exactly what prompted the use of force by Deputy Momphard.”

Momphard was sent by the sheriff’s office to Pheasant Drive in Franklin just minutes before midnight April 29 on a report of a dispute between neighbors. According to Newman’s report, the deputy had to stop his marked cruiser due to an obstruction in the road that he described as two boards stacked on top of one another. He then saw several boards in the road that appeared to be carefully measured between each other. 

Momphard approached the front of the Knibbs’ residence 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 walked up the hill to the neighbor’s home. 

One of the residents, Shelton Freeman, met the deputy and explained that he had called because one of his friends could not drive on the roadway due to the boards placed in the road by Scott Knibbs. Freeman said he and his two roommates, T.J. Brown and Tiffany Austin, had only lived at the residence for less than a month.  

According to Freeman, they were planning to have a cookout that evening and most of his friends had arrived earlier in the evening, but one of his friends came at around 11 p.m. and mistakenly drove into Knibbs’ driveway. The friend reported that Scott Knibbs came out of a shed and asked him if he was there to buy pills. When he said he was looking for his friend’s house, Knibbs allegedly became aggressive and told him to get off his property before kicking his car as he drove away. According to the interview with Knibbs’ wife, Scott told her that he shoved the young man back into his car.  

One of the visitors at the cookout left to go home around 11:30 p.m. but couldn’t get out due to boards with nails placed in the road in front of Knibbs’ home. 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. That’s when they called the sheriff’s office.

Freeman later told investigators that he had several uncomfortable contacts with Knibbs since he lived there. Knibbs allegedly told the residents to shut their dogs up from barking or he would shut them up, showed up intoxicated at Freeman’s home and also made an obscene gesture to the person mowing the yard for Freeman.

After speaking to Freeman, Momphard walked back toward the Knibbs’ residence while Freeman was going to remove the boards from the road. When approaching the front door, Momphard again announced himself, which was corroborated by both Freeman and Knibbs’ wife during interviews with SBI agents.

As Momphard approached the door, he heard someone “rack” a round in a shotgun and he immediately shouted for the person to put the weapon down. He shouted this instruction at least three times, according to Newman’s report, and was also heard by the neighbors and Knibbs’ wife. 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 Scott Knibbs face down on the floor. Knibbs’ wife and daughter came into the room screaming. 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.  

Holland and other deputies 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 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.

“… 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,” Newman said. “This entire incident is a tragedy and the deputy certainly did not anticipate these events. 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. 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.”

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