Off-duty deputy shoots robbery suspect

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

UPDATE: The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement this afternoon:

“The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Salisbury Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) have received numerous requests from the media pertaining to the shooting incident at the China Buffet at 205 North Arlington Street in Salisbury, North Carolina, around 9:05 p.m., on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  All three agencies are conducting separate probes, with the Sheriff’s Office conducting an internal probe and the SBI conducting an officer involved shooting investigation.  Certain facts cannot be released, due to the nature of the ongoing investigation.  At this time, our department can release certain information related to the identity of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office involved in the shooting on March 25.  John L. Kempf, age 41, was the Deputy Sheriff involved in the shooting incident.  He was hired by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office on May 12, 2013, as a Deputy Sheriff assigned to the Rowan County Detention Center.  He is presently in a probationary status, as he has been employed by the department for less than one year.  Deputy Kempf completed Basic Law Enforcement Training on December 14, 2012, and last completed firearm training on May 8, 2013.  At that time, he completed daytime, nighttime and combat qualification with a .40 Glock handgun.  Deputy Kempf last worked on Sunday, March 23, 2014, and was schedule to work again on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.  The firearm used in this shooting incident was in fact the Rowan County issued Glock.

“Evidence reviewed by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office leads our office to conclude that Deputy Kempf acted in a manner consistent with his training and the laws of the State of North Carolina.  A final determination will be made by District Attorney Brandy Cook and her office, following a complete investigation by the SBI.

“By NC State law and RCSO policy, Deputy Kemph is allowed to carry his weapon concealed, as an off-duty officer.”    

UPDATE: The off-duty Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy involved in shooting an armed man trying to rob the China Buffet has been identified as John Kempf, 41.

He has been employed by the county since May 12, 2013, according to information provided by County Attorney Jay Dees. Kempf is a detention officer.

Dees indicates there has been no change in Kempf’s status with the county.

SALISBURY — An off-duty Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed an armed man attempting to rob the China Buffet restaurant near Interstate 85 Tuesday night.

After the shooting, Salisbury Police shut down the restaurant and detained customers and employees inside until they could be interviewed.

A few employees and customers were being released by 11 p.m., almost two hours after the shooting.

The deputy was dining at the restaurant when he confronted the robbery suspect, according to reports. The robber, a black male, was wearing a mask over his face and was carrying a shotgun when he attempted to rob the restaurant, a police statement said.

“At some point during the brief encounter,” police said in the statement, “the situation reached a point in which the deputy fired upon the suspect who was struck in the upper torso and is now deceased.”

Because it was an officer-involved shooting, the State Bureau of Investigation was called to the restaurant, and agents have taken over the case.

Pending notification of family, Salisbury Police declined to release names of the deputy or the man who was shot late Tuesday.

Because of the SBI investigation, Salisbury Police serve in a support role in this case. Several members of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office also reported to the scene.

China Buffet is located at 205 N. Arlington St.

Earl Stacks, a customer who emerged from the restaurant before the shooting, said he heard three shots fired before he and his friend, Lisa Millis, reached their car in the parking lot.

“We had just come out,” Stacks said. “It wasn’t even a minute.”

Stacks described the shots as a “Bam,” followed by two quicker shots.

Millis came out before Stacks, who was paying the bill, and she noticed a man to their side who appeared to be wearing gloves and something around his face.

“I said, ‘Did you see that man?’” Millis said she asked Stacks. “It didn’t look right.”

Stacks said there were at least five booths with customers still in the restaurant when they left. The restaurant’s usual closing time on Tuesday nights is 10.

Stacks said he eats at China Buffet “now and then.”

“I wish it would have been somewhere else tonight,” he added.

Police quickly cordoned off the entrance and front section of the parking lot with yellow tape.

Not long into the aftermath of the shooting, an officer on the west side of the building stopped at gunpoint an employee coming out from the back. At least two other employees also were stopped and led back into the restaurant while the investigation continued.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.