Stokes Co. Sheriff Fired Shots in Fatal Deputy-Involved Shooting

STOKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Stokes County Sheriff Mike Marshall and three other deputies fired shots in a fatal officer-involved shooting Friday night. The armed suspect, was shot and killed after Major Jeff Lemons says he ignored the deputies' commands to drop his weapons.

This incident began hours earlier at the Shear Country Hair and Tanning Salon on Old U.S. 52. Deputies responded to an armed robbery and stabbing around 5 p.m. Major Lemons says the stabbing victim is the salon owner's husband. He was taken to a Winston-Salem hospital and was back home Saturday morning.

Monday, the Stokes County Sheriff's Department identified the suspect as 33-year-old Lee Aaron Gerston. A family member told the SBI that Gerston grew up in California, but had recently moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. He was reported to have been taking a friend to a drug rehab somewhere in Virginia.

Investigators say it is unknown at this time how or why Gerston got to Stokes County.

Deputies say Gerston left the salon and ran into a house on Mill Street where he barricaded himself inside.

For the next two hours, deputies surrounded the house and had conversations with him.

Major Lemons told WFMY News 2 Gerston exited the house armed with a knife in both of his hands. The suspect did not drop the knives after deputies ordered him to, according to Major Lemons. One of the deputies used his Taser on the suspect but Major Lemons says that didn't stop him. Sheriff Mike Marshall, Captain Thomas Sands, Lieutenant Shannon Gammons and Det. Sgt. Wade White fired their guns, hitting the suspect.

Saturday, people in the town of Pinnacle were shocked and saddened by what happened.

Michael McCullough lives directly across the street from where the shooting took place. He says this all happened right outside of his front door. He said the place was flooded with police officers, firefighters and emergency responders.

"It is surreal to know that something like that happened right there in front of your house," said McCullough. "That's a scary scene to walk down the street and knowing that you have kids and stuff in some of the houses at that time when he ran out of the shop, you could've had kids out there in yards playing. Anything for him to grab and run around with a knife in his hand and that is very scary."

Sidney Smith and Will Sisk have lived in Pinnacle their entire lives. Sisk told WFMY News 2 that his mother is good friends with the owner of the salon that was robbed. He said she was very scared and worried about her friend and she has been trying to reach out to see if they need any help.

"It's pretty sad that it had to happen like that. Being that my mom knows them and is personal friends with them, you don't expect something like this to happen in Pinnacle," said Sisk. "Everybody is going to be worried and scared (about) their family. Everybody here in pinnacle, they go over there and most of them get their haircut there. You never know what's going to happen and what somebody will do."

Smith says he has been getting his haircut at the Shear Country Hair Salon since he was four years old. He says that his mom, grandma, and sister all get their haircuts and go tanning at that salon as well. Smith said he is shocked that an incident of this magnitude happened in such a small, tight-knit community. He said that this situation makes him think about his own safety more.

"A lot of people are actually scared about it. Yesterday, went to happen, Pinnacle got four times busier than it usually does. People going in their houses," said Smith. "My mom manages a trailer park and everybody was inside with their doors locked. My grandma, she wouldn't even go home yesterday because she was so scared."

Smith added that he wants to try to convince his mother to get a concealed carry permit to protect herself in case something like this ever happens again.

Shanna Malone lives in the town of King but is looking to purchase a new house with her family in Pinnacle. Malone says that her two teenage daughters have friends in the neighborhood where this incident happened and they spend a lot of time in the area. She says that she worries about their safety knowing that this incident happened here.

"When they go out, I ask that they stay with their boyfriends or stay in a group and not by themselves. To be safe in numbers is what I always ask my girls," said Malone. "It's always that possibility. We always have to keep that in the back of our mind that we can't trust everybody in this world."

Malone added that she plans to talk to her children about protecting themselves and being more aware of their surroundings.

The SBI is now investigating the incident.

Stokes County sheriff's detectives are expected to meet with SBI officials on Monday to go over the incident and WFMY News 2 hopes to obtain further details at that time.

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