1 shot, killed by Cherryville police after assaulting them, department says

CHERRYVILLE, N.C. — Cherryville police shot and killed a man after he allegedly assaulted officers on Sunday afternoon, the police department says. A witness said it appears officers did everything they could to stop him before firing the fatal shot.

The shooting happened around 1 p.m. near West Second Street in Cherryville.

Residents told Channel 9 that police were called out after a man allegedly hit a woman in the face. When police arrived, they saw 35-year-old Thomas Michael Gregory Rivera screaming while walking up and down the street.

Two officers approached the man and a fight ensued. Rivera assaulted one of the officers several times before grabbing a pipe, police said. That was when an officer fired a single shot, hitting Rivera. He died at the hospital.

‘Man, I didn’t want to do that’

“I’m a little bit shocked,” said Justin Smart, a friend of Rivera’s.

Smart saw the whole thing happen and said he even helped police, but they just couldn’t control Rivera. He said as the situation got more and more dangerous, officers had to do what he said was the only thing they could.

“Y’all did all y’all could do to stop him,” he said.

Smart said Rivera had started acting aggressively and violently Sunday. A female police officer arrived and tried to calm him down but he punched her in the face. Smart said she and a male officer deployed their Tasers four times.

“Tasing pissed him off,” Smart said.

One witness said Rivera yelled at police, “Is that all you got?” Smart said they used pepper spray and tried wrestling Rivera, but that was when he swung at them with the metal.

“He’s throwing all of us around like a rag doll,” Smart said.

He said the man hit the female officer in the face with the tool, at which point the male officer had enough.

“They told him ‘please stop. We don’t want to do this. This is going to end badly,’” Smart said.

Smart said he was yards away when the male officer fired one shot.

“I could tell the officer didn’t want to do that because he threw his hands on his head and was white and panicking like ‘Man, I didn’t want to do that,’” he said.

Smart said though both officers were badly beaten themselves, they immediately attempted CPR on Rivera.

‘All of a sudden, he just hit me’

The woman who was assaulted said she was really good friends with Rivera, and she says this was the only time she had seen him act out.

“He was really sweet, really really sweet guy he didn’t bother anybody,” Carrie Winstead said, “He walked up to me and was talking, and then all of a sudden, he just hit me right in the eye.”

A 13-year-old who saw the entire episode said at one point, Rivera was armed with what appeared to be a wrench that he may have struck one of the officers with.

“He was on the ground trying to get up to run away, and when he was on the ground, the cops were trying to hold him down to make sure they could cuff him or something and he couldn’t get him cuffed and he got tazed once and he got tazed twice,” Falon Bowers said. “He was just laughing at them and trying to punch the cops, the cops were trying to get him down and restrain him but he wouldn’t stop so the cops took out their gun and popped him in the chest.”

Bowers told Counts she wasn’t sure if Rivera was still armed when the shooting occurred.

“It was just bare hands he was just punching them with his bare hands, he had dropped it in the road I think,” she said.

Winstead says this was the first and only time she’d seen Rivera act out in this manner.

“There was something that completely changed that boy, like all of a sudden, like I said I’ve never heard him raise his voice out of anger,” Winstead said.

The State Bureau of Investigation is now handling the case. The officers involved have been placed on administrative duties pending the completion of the investigation, according to the police.

(WATCH BELOW: Person critically injured from shooting in east Charlotte)