Here is the picture of Michael filling backpacks for needy children.
A Morganton Public Safety officer shot and killed a 17-year-old male late Sunday night at Independence Park on Air Park Drive.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigations is investigating the incident.
Morganton Department of Public Safety identified the teen as Michael Blake Sipes.
Public Safety Chief Mark Tolbert didn’t release the name of the two officers who responded to the scene because the shooting is still under investigation. Both officers have been put on paid administrative leave.
The officers were veterans of the department, Tolbert said.
Public Safety officials say the officers were responding to an unknown disturbance at the mobile home park.
The officers got the call at 11:40 p.m. Sunday night, said Tolbert. Another call went out at 11:45 p.m. of shots fired, he said.
Tolbert said the officer involved in the shooting is saying he knocked on the door and announced his presence. He wasn’t sure what was said when the officer announced.
Tolbert said there is no duty for an officer to announce his or her presence but said Public Safety officers do.
Michael’s mother, Kimberly Sipes, said someone pounded on her door and she asked who was there. She said no one answered. She said Michael asked who was at the door three more times.
The last time, Michael, holding a gun, opened the door and didn’t see anything, Kimberly Sipes said. That’s when he was shot, she said.
Kimberly Sipes said Michael was shot four or five times. His abdomen took the brunt of the damage, she indicated.
According to WSOC TV Channel 9, The News Herald news partner, area resident Korey Forney said he never heard the officers identify themselves as police, but said he heard at least four gunshots.
They didn’t identify themselves as police,” he said. “That’s why he came outside. But he had (the gun) in a position where he wasn’t going to fire.”
Tolbert said the gun Michael was holding was a .22-caliber rifle.
Tolbert said there is no in-car video from the shooting. How many shots were fired are part of the investigation, he said, but he confirmed that more than one shot was fired.
Tolbert said only one of the officers fired his weapon during the shooting. Following protocol, both officers, who are veterans of the department, have been put on paid administrative leave, he said.
Kimberly Sipes said the officer who did the shooting ran up a hill away from the area after the shooting.
Tolbert said he doesn’t know anything about an officer running away.
During the press conference on Monday, Tolbert said he believes the officer felt threatened. If the officer felt threatened, hence the muzzle of the teen’s gun was pointed in his direction, Tolbert said.
A neighbor, who did not want to be identified and was reluctant to talk about the incident, said the call to the mobile home park was a call about the noise coming from the mobile home where Michael lived.
Kimberly Sipes said there was a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old staying at her house. She said the two older kids were jumping around and making noise.
Tolbert said protocol for an officer is to look and listen to try to figure out what’s going on when he or she arrives at a scene. He said the call the officers were responding to Sunday night was an unknown disturbance and the person who called Public Safety said a “racket” was coming from the residence.
Kimberly Sipes questioned why officers didn’t TASER her son instead of shooting him.
Tolbert said officers have to make split-second decision. He indicated that using a TASER wasn’t an option during the incident.
As she was leaving her home on Monday, Kimberly Sipes said she’s looking for a wrongful-death attorney.
Michael’s stepmother, Angie Cook, said, “The city is being sued.”
Tolbert said it’s not the first time officers have responded to the home.
Tolbert said the SBI will turn over its findings of the investigation to the district attorney’s office.
Michael Sipes, who a neighbor called a good kid, was a student at Freedom High School.
According to WSOC TV Channel 9, Michael’s stepmother, Angie Cook, said. “He was a good kid. He didn’t bother nobody. He tried to help everybody he could.”
His mother said he planned to join the Army next year.
Freedom High School Principal Ken Prichard said Michael was was in ROTC last year but wasn’t scheduled to take it in the current semester.
A school crisis team was called to come to Freedom on Monday in response to the news, Prichard said. While a school-wide announcement wasn’t made about Michael’s death, Prichard and counselors talked to classes he had and students who knew him, said school officials.
Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Art Stellar said the school system will keep the grief counselors at the school for as long as it takes.
Prichard said some of the school’s staff will go to Michael’s home when his mother is ready for them. Right now, he said, is not a good time.
Prichard said the school will likely make a broader announcement and hold a moment of silence in remembrance of Michael.