CIPD officers shoot Murphy man in SWAT response
When officers shot Murphy resident Jason Harley Kloepfer, 41, while responding to a disturbance call Monday, Dec. 12, a press release from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said it happened because Kloepfer “engaged in a verbal altercation with officers” and confronted them as he emerged from his camper trailer.
However, video of the incident Kloepfer posted to his Facebook page Jan. 18 appears to contradict that version of events, raising questions about an initial storyline that differed drastically from what Kloepfer’s security camera captured.
According to Cherokee County Sheriff Dustin Smith, the shots were fired by members of the Cherokee Indian Police Department SWAT team, which Cherokee County had called upon for assistance. Smith had been in office for only a week when the incident occurred, running unopposed in November after beating out two primary opponents in May.
The raid on Kloepfer’s home, a camper trailer on a 3-acre parcel along a winding road 20 minutes outside Murphy, was prompted by a 911 call from the next door neighbor placed just before 11 p.m.
“My neighbor about an hour ago started shooting off fireworks, screaming yelling he’s going to kill the whole neighborhood, yada yada, he’s discharging a firearm,” the neighbor told dispatch. “I’ve been videoing all of this, but I was just gonna let it go. But I just heard his wife screaming ‘stop it,’ and then a bunch of shots went off and now I can’t hear her over there at all.”
Between 11:17 and 11:25 p.m., three Cherokee County deputies arrived on scene but couldn’t contact anyone at Kloepfer’s address on Upper Bear Paw Road.
“We haven’t been able to make contact with anybody at this residence,” one of the deputies says in a radio transmission shortly after arriving. “We’re just coming to the door of the trailer. There’s a detached garage with music blaring in the garage. We can’t get anybody to come to the door at the garage either.”
Kloepfer wasn’t a stranger to local law enforcement. In one exchange with dispatch that night, a sheriff’s office employee told dispatch he was in the office to get some background on Kloepfer, adding, “I think we’ve dealt with him before.” “Yes, multiple times,” the dispatcher replied. Records provided by Cherokee County show that in the two years prior to the shooting there had been 11 calls to Kloepfer’s address, mostly related to noise, fireworks and civil process.
Worried that there could be a hostage in the camper — the woman who the neighbor had heard yell “stop it” before the gun fired — officers sought a search warrant, which would allow them to enter the property even without someone answering the door. In one call, dispatch is asked to both start the search warrant process and contact CIPD to request help from their SWAT team.
- Kloepfer and his wife Alison Mahler smile in a photo taken in 2019. Jason Harley Kloepfer Facebook photo
The search warrant was approved at 2:14 a.m. but not executed until nearly three hours later. Cherokee County was waiting for CIPD, which has a SWAT team. Cherokee County does not.
Call logs show that CIPD was dispatched around 12:19 a.m. Cherokee is an hour and a half from Kloepfer’s address on Upper Bear Paw Road, and the team met to get organized at the sheriff’s department in Murphy before leaving for Kloepfer’s house.
There was also red tape to navigate. The Memorandum of Understanding outlining the relationship between Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and CIPD had died with the end of former Sheriff Derrick Palmer’s term, CIPD’s SWAT commander told dispatch, and no new document had been approved after Sheriff Dustin Smith was sworn in.
“If they could, contact the sheriff or the highest-ranking person that they got that’s on duty tonight to do that, because we got to make sure that we’re, you know, covered on the assistance thing,” CIPD’s SWAT commander told dispatch.
After that call ended, dispatch placed a call to let county law enforcement know that a new agreement was needed. She was assured that Sheriff Smith was at the office and would be able to sign the agreement. Smith did not respond to an email from The Smoky Mountain News requesting the signed agreement.
Kloepfer’s published security video starts at 4:54 a.m. Flashlights appear outside the door as officers open it to throw in the robot they’ve brought with them. It lands and starts shining a light around the dark home. Kloepfer and a woman he identifies on his Facebook page as Alison Mahler don’t wake up until two minutes later, when the robot’s light shines directly into their bedroom.
“What’s going on?” asks Mahler, sounding groggy and confused.
“Hello?” they both call.
“Jason,” a police officer says through a loudspeaker. “Step outside.”
Mahler and Kloepfer emerge from the bedroom and Kloepfer stoops down to grab the robot as its light continues to shine.
“Come outside, Jason,” the police officer repeats as Kloepfer continues to amble toward the door. “Step outside the door onto the deck and show us your hands. Jason, we just want to talk to you. Come outside.”
Kloepfer opens the door 16 seconds after 4:57 a.m., holding the robot in his right hand and lifting up his arms. Multiple officers shout at him to hold up his hands, and 20 seconds after 4:57 a.m. there’s a barrage of bullets as Kloepfer holds his hands above his head. Then he falls to the ground.
“I’m shot!” he yells as the police officer holding the loudspeaker continues to command him to come out with his hands up.
“He can’t. He’s shot,” Mahler yells as she comes to the door, hands held high. Kloepfer crawls to the door, stretching his own hands outside its frame.
The SWAT team enters at 4:58 a.m., checking the trailer for any other inhabitants as another officer assures Kloepfer, who repeats over and over that he didn’t have a gun, that an ambulance is on its way. At 4:59 a.m. one officer tells the others standing in the trailer to start working on Kloepfer’s medical needs, and they carry him outside.
“Ali, I love you,” he can be heard shouting to Mahler.
At 5 a.m., three police officers enter the now-empty trailer.
“F*** bro. F***,” one of them says.
“Cameras, there’s cameras,” says another. They briefly turn toward the camera and then complete their walkthrough of the camper.
Afterward, Kloepfer was taken to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga and charged with two misdemeanors — communicating threats and resisting a public officer. Photos on his Facebook page show a scar running up the center of his torso from hip level to just below the breastbone, with another scar where a bullet struck his right arm.
“I just received everyone’s messages, been offline 100% since I posted the video till now,” Kloepfer wrote in a Feb. 20 Facebook post. “I am physically doing better, mentally me an Ali ain’t so good on this one. We are out of state for fear of our lives since I got out the hospital. I can’t talk to [sic] much about details right now as this is major major case still evolving. But like I said five weeks ago, trust me the news is completely wrong and so are my charges.”
Despite what’s depicted on the video, the release posted to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page at 11:42 a.m. Dec. 13 painted Kloepfer as an antagonist whose actions forced CIPD to fire. But two days after Kloepfer posted the video Jan. 18, Smith issued a new press release blaming CIPD for the apparently false information contained in the original release. Dispatch logs show multiple county deputies and investigators were on scene at the time of the shooting, in addition to the CIPD team.
“Following the shooting, my office issued a press release about the event,” he wrote. “The release was prepared by the county attorney based on information my office received from CIPD. Neither myself nor Chief Deputy Justin Jacobs were on the scene at the time of the shooting, so we relied on information provided to us from the Cherokee Indian Police Department. My goal with issuing that press release was not to comment on the subsequent criminal investigation, which remains ongoing, but rather to update the public on a dangerous situation.”
- Kloepfer shows the scars from his healing injuries. Jason Harley Kloepfer Facebook photo
The statement goes on to reference Smith’s platform during his campaign for sheriff, saying that what happened Dec. 13 shows the need for Cherokee County to have its own tactical team.
“It is imperative for us to be self-reliant when it comes to fighting crime, especially during a situation in which time is of the essence, such as a hostage or active shooter event,” he wrote. “I will be asking county commissioners for the funds to create such a unit when budget negotiations for the next fiscal year begin.”
Commissioners didn’t wait for formal budget negotiations to stake out their position on funding a SWAT team. As shown on The Cherokee Scout’s recording of the Jan. 23 meeting, Chairman Cal Stiles introduced a resolution opposing creation of a SWAT team for Cherokee County. The resolution affirms the board’s support of law enforcement but says commissioners have “grave concerns regarding the establishment of a SWAT team including but not limited to the cost to Cherokee County taxpayers, the minimal need for a SWAT team, the preservation of the Constitutional rights of the citizens of the County and the exorbitant amount of liability to which the County may be exposed.”
The board tabled the resolution for discussion Feb. 6. According to County Manager Randy Wiggins, Smith attended that meeting and told the board he had no intention of requesting SWAT team funding for the 2023-2024 budget, so the board chose not to vote on the resolution.
As is the case with any officer-involved shooting, the incident is under investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations. SBI reports never become public but instead are passed along to the district attorney, who reviews their contents and determines whether charges are warranted against any law enforcement officers involved.
District Attorney Ashley Welch and CIPD Chief Carla Neadeau declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing investigation. Smith did not return an email requesting comment or acknowledge a public records request contained in that same email. Kloepfer’s attorney declined to comment at this time.
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With all the PROBLEMS and THREATS I have had from the US government, I am afraid this is going to happen to me shortly....In fact they tried once before when I lived in Arizona, but a "witness" showed up, so they FBI and local cops left promptly....
I wonder if the neighbor swatted him.
I am unable to find the letter Cherokee County Attorney Brown, wrote stating he was recusing himself from the case and made the letter public, according to the Cherokee Scout.
Any information or a copy would be appreciated.