Rockwell man injured in confrontation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

By Shelley Smith
The new year started off badly for a Rockwell man who was taken to the hospital after an attempt to pick his daughter up from his ex-girlfriend’s home, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday.
Authorities responded around 3:45 p.m. Saturday to a report of a possible shooting at Pop’s Country Store, 5285 U.S. 601. Deputies and Rowan County EMS found Joseph Benjamin Fields, 21, with an elbow injury. He was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center.
Deputies learned the injury happened at 4410 Cauble Road, the home of Steven Ryan Peoples, 25, and Kristin Niehoff, a Sheriff’s Office report said.
As they questioned Fields at the hospital, a nurse told deputies that Peoples was also in the hospital complaining of a dislocated shoulder. He’d told the nurse it had happened while he was chopping wood.
Brianna Cornwell, who was at Pop’s Country Store with Fields, told authorities she and Fields went to the Cauble Road home to pick up Fields’ daughter since it was his weekend to keep her.
When they arrived they blew the horn and Niehoff came out with the child.
As Fields placed his child in the car seat, Niehoff and Cornwell began arguing and the confrontation turned physical, Cornwell told investigators.
As Fields tried to separate the two women, Peoples came outside and hit Fields with a police baton, according to the report. Fields told authorities that as he and Cornwell got into the car, Peoples pulled out a handgun and began shooting.
Niehoff took the child out of the car, and Fields told authorities he sped away.
Sheriff’s detectives Christine Brown and Carl Dangerfield spoke to several neighbors who confirmed hearing gunshots in the area.
They also spoke at the hospital with Peoples. He initially denied the incident happened, according to the report, but later told the detectives he did use the baton but did not have a gun.
Detectives got a search warrant for the Cauble Road home, where they found a Glock handgun under clothing in the bedroom, two shell casings in a trash can and a broken baton, the report said.
Peoples was charged Saturday with assault by pointing a gun, assault with a deadly weapon and obstruction of justice. He was released after posting a $2,500 bond.
Authorities said evidence was inconclusive on whether Fields was wounded by a bullet.
Niehoff said Tuesday that Fields and Cornwell began yelling at her as soon as she walked outside with her daughter, and the two threatened her and touched her.
Niehoff, who is pregnant, said Peoples feared she would be thrown to the ground or assaulted.
“We didn’t know what he was capable of,” Niehoff said of Fields.
Niehoff said when Peoples hit Fields with a baton, she grabbed her daughter, ran inside her home and called 911.
Peoples also fired two shots into the air, Niehoff said, because his shoulder was dislocated and “he was fearful for his life and felt he had no other option.”
Contact reporter Shelley Smith at 704-797-4246.