‘He made a choice:’ Sheriff provides narrative of events that left one dead Tuesday

Published 12:18 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

SALISBURY — Details surrounding the fatal shooting of Jordan Mays that took place Tuesday in a home on Thriftwood Avenue have officially been released.

On Thursday, Rowan County Sheriff Travis Allen provided a comprehensive account and timeline of what occurred before Mays was killed, including the deputies’ escalation of the use of force.

According to Allen, an informant provided the newly formed Sheriff’s Office Criminal Apprehension Team (SOCAT) with a tip that Mays and Jeremy Brock, another individual with outstanding warrants, were at the home located at 138 Driftwood Court.

Five SOCAT members responded to the scene, arriving at 5:01 p.m. All the deputies reportedly wore tactical uniforms and were identifiable as law enforcement officers.

Personnel on scene were all master deputies: Jessica Abrams, David Scott, Travis James, Chase Safrit and Adam Dyles. Upon arrival, the deputies established a perimeter around the residence.

“Tactical approaches have changed over the years,” Allen said. “It used to be that we would run up, stack up, get in a line with a shield, go in and take out who we wanted to take out. That philosophy has changed now with the issues of the use of deadly force. We do a tactical approach where we try to call people out instead of forcing these types of situations.”

Deputies reportedly used patrol-vehicle loudspeakers to announce their presence. They called out to both wanted individuals by name. After numerous attempts and several minutes, they began closing in on the residence.

In the rear of the residence, deputies made contact with a female, who the sheriff’s office did not identify. According to Allen, the female reportedly told the deputies that the individuals they sought were not inside the home.

The deputies detected movement in a detached garage. An individual, identified as Brock, was apprehended without incident. During the following line of questioning, deputies developed information that Mays was likely in the rear bedroom of the single-wide trailer on the property, prompting them to enter the residence. Three deputies — Dyles, Safrit and Adams — entered the dwelling at 5:27 p.m. Abrams and Scott remained outside with the Brock and the female.

The deputies reportedly moved through the dwelling, securing it room by room and announcing themselves along the way. No verbal cues were given from the rear bedroom where they believed Mays to be even as they drew closer to the door. Body camera footage revealed that the door was slightly ajar.

As they entered the room, the deputies encountered Mays and a female on the bed. They also observed a 9-mm handgun.

“As soon as you are in the room, you see on the body cam a handgun on the desk or end table right within reach of Mays,” Allen said. “One of our deputies closes that distance and gets between him and the gun.”

One of the deputies prompts Mays not to go for the gun.

“Deputy Dyles immediately gets between him and the gun to try and go hands-on with him,” Allen said. “He does not listen to commands. He won’t be handcuffed. They are not fighting. They are more like wrestling. Dyles is trying to get his hands behind his back. Making commands, ‘Give me your hands, give me your hand, give me your hands.’ ”

Safrit also attempted to get to Mays but was hindered by the size of the room and the clutter around the bed. It is unclear who said it, but Allen indicated that at least one of the deputies shouted, “tase him.”

“At this instant is when everything really changes,” Allen said. “It seems like the word tase or the order (set something off). He immediately comes off the ground. … He makes a move for the gun even after all this. It’s not like the gun was there, and we just shot him. The gun is in play. They tried to get him away from the gun. He chose to go back to the gun. He made the choice not to keep his hands up. He made the choice not to obey commands. He turned and went back to the gun.”

James was at the door with an AR-15 and yelled, “gun,” as Mays attempted to pick it up.

“Deputies with an AR-15 generally don’t engage because they are (providing) cover,” Allen said. “They can’t secure their weapon. The other two deputies had their handguns in the holster and were trying to physically put [Mays] under arrest.”

Dyles reportedly separated himself from Mays at that point.

“I don’t know if he was making space or if Mays was pushing him that way, but some space was created,” Allen said.

James proceeded to shoot his rifle five times. At least one of the rounds fatally struck Mays in the head.

According to Allen, the entire scene played out in a matter of 10-15 seconds.

“It’s not a long process in the bedroom,” Allen said.

After the shots were fired, Scott responded with first-aid equipment to treat Mays. However, due to the extent of the injury, it was determined that no aid was possible.

After securing the residence, more than $3,000 in cash, approximately three to four ounces of a substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine and three 9mm handguns were recovered from the bedroom where Mays was killed.

“I don’t like to use the word proud because this is never our goal to use deadly force, but I am proud of the way they handled the call from start to finish,” Allen said. “If you could write a textbook training scenario, it was textbook what they are taught.

“Even after they enter the room and see the handgun, they don’t go guns first. They go hands-on. When the hands-on wasn’t working, they called for a Taser. That’s another step in the use of force continuum that the deputies, in a stressful situation, are able to process. When he grabbed that pistol, after being warned numerous times, he grabbed it and tried to turn on the officers. They are really limited in what they can do at that point.”

When the SOCAT team was formed, one of the duties assigned to its personnel was serving warrants to dangerous individuals.

Mays was considered a Top-10 most wanted individual by local state probation officials. He was reportedly wanted for failure to appear warrants for carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm by a felon, driving while his license was revoked and a probation violation.

Mays’ record and information indicating he was typically armed prompted the need for SOCAT to serve the warrant.

Per protocol, the sheriff placed all five deputies on administrative paid leave.

“We have partnered with Rowan County Human Resources to ensure our deputies receive post-incident care,” Allen said in a press release. “Rowan County Human Resources and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office take the well-being of our employees seriously. None of the deputies received any injuries during the encounter.

“I also ask that the privacy of our deputies and their families be respected at this time.”

After acknowledging the appropriateness of his deputies’ actions, Allen lamented the outcome.

“It is never our desire to be involved in a lethal, deadly force encounter,” Allen said. “However, we are often forced into this outcome by those that would mean harm to others. We take steps and train to avoid these confrontations.

“I, as sheriff, offer my sincere condolences to the family of Jordan Mays.”

The names of the two females at the residence have not been officially released. That information would have to be released by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which is handling its own investigation of the incident.