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Durham police shoot man they say refused to drop gun at apartment building

A Durham police officer has been placed on leave after critically wounding a man who refused to drop a rifle Wednesday on Mathison Street, police said.

The suspect was shot once in the head and was being treated for life-threatening injuries at Duke Hospital, Police Chief Jose Lopez said.

Police did not release the man’s name, but ABC11 Eyewitness News reported relatives identified him as Cayetano Castro, in his early 20s.

Police K-9 Officer Brian K. Johnson, who has worked for the department since 2003, has been placed on administrative leave with pay, Lopez said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. That is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting.

The State Bureau of Investigation will investigate the shooting, which also is standard procedure. Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said the department’s Professional Standards Division will also look into the case.

The incident started when a woman called 911 about 2:15 a.m. Wednesday to report a man shooting at her, another person and a child as they walked toward Burton Apartments at 1507 Mathison St., Lopez said.

The two-story, brick apartment building is at the dead end of Mathison Street, near Burton Elementary School and the Durham Freeway.

“Somebody just shot at us with a gun,” the woman told a 911 operator in Spanish. “We were walking outside the apartment. We were with a baby, and they started shooting at us.”

“We went running behind a car with the baby,” she said.

When police arrived, Lopez said, they found the man standing in a doorway, holding a rifle.

Johnson ordered him to drop the gun, Lopez said, and when people at the scene started speaking in Spanish, the officer repeated the command in Spanish. The man refused to drop the rifle, and Johnson shot him, Lopez said.

Lopez said he did not know if the man fired upon police. He could not confirm whether anyone was arrested at the scene, though police radio communication released later Wednesday indicated one suspect was “down” and another in custody.

“It was a very dangerous situation, not just for the police officer, but everybody involved,” the chief said.

Last year three officer-involved shootings, including two fatal shooting of suspects by police, led to a new policy under which Lopez will make a report on the shooting to City Manager Tom Bonfield within five days of the incident, at which time it will become public.

Michael said a fuller report about Wednesday’s shooting will be made under the new policy.

Staff writers Mark Schultz and Ron Gallagher contributed to this report.