Sheriff's Deputy Shot and Killed near Vass; Shooter Turns Gun on Self
Officer's Slay Said to Be County' First
By Paul Dunn
Special to The Pilot
Last August, in an interview concerning risks assumed by public safety officials, Moore County Sheriff Lane Carter noted that apparently no officers had ever been killed in the line of duty in the long history of his department.
That remarkable record was ended Thursday with the shooting death of Deputy Rick Rhyne.
North Carolina ranks sixth in the nation in officer fatalities. Locally, the first reported time an officer was killed doing his job came in Aberdeen on Jan. 10, 1924, when Police Chief William Pross Page was shot and killed trying to apprehend a burglary suspect.
Southern Pines has had a bloody history, with five of its officers killed in the line of duty. From 1929 to 1961, every Southern Pines chief of police met a violent end, beginning when Chief Joseph Kelly was shot in 1929 by a burglary suspect.
In 1946, Robbins Police Chief Shellie Wayne Moxley died after a deadly shootout with two men in the E.E. Moss Grocery Store. In 1953, Carthage Chief Bernice Cameron was shot in the face when he was ambushed in a dark alley.
A Moore County sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed Thursday afternoon after attempting to arrest a man on a child-support warrant, said Moore County Sheriff Lane Carter.
The shooting occurred at about noon at a home on Morrison Bridge Road in Lobelia, in the extreme eastern part of the county.
Deputy Rick Rhyne, 58, was pronounced dead at the emergency room of Moore Regional Hospital Thursday afternoon after he was shot in the face by a man identified as Martin Abel Poynter — who then shot and killed himself, according to reports.
Thursday afternoon, a second man, identified as Poynter’s brother, was in police custody and apparently being questioned, though Carter said he was not a suspect.
Attorney Bruce Cunningham, assigned by the capital defender’s office, was at the Sheriff’s Office Thursday afternoon asking to see the man. He was told that he could not do so, unless “he asks to see a lawyer.”
Rhyne is said to be the first Moore County deputy to be killed in the line of duty. He joined the Sheriff’s Department on April 28, 2007, after retiring as the Foxfire police chief in 2006. He also previously worked as a member of the Pinehurst Police Department.
“It is with great sadness that I report to you the loss of one of Moore County’s finest,” Carter said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Poynter was described as a white man, approximately 33 years of age. He was described as an Iraq War veteran with a history of mental problems.
Larry Caddell, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, called Rhyne a friend and a man who always had a smile on his face.
“Today was a little tough on me,” an emotional Caddell said. “If God ever made a really, really nice guy, it was Rick Rhyne.”
Carter said Rhyne had responded to a report of two suspects trespassing at 753 Morrison Bridge Road in the Lobelia community. He arrived at the scene and identified both suspects. He called back by radio to ask if there were outstanding warrants for either subject, Carter said. He was advised by another deputy that there was an outstanding child support warrant for Martin Abel Poynter.
Deputy Rhyne then attempted to arrest Poynter, who pulled out a pistol and shot him. Poynter then turned the gun on himself and died at the scene, Carter said.
Emergency personnel reportedly administered CPR to Rhyne on the scene before he was transported by ambulance to Moore Regional Hospital.
At least three unmarked police cars and an ambulance were seen speeding away from the scene.
After the shooting, deputies closed down Morrison Bridge Road for several hours. The driveway leading to the home was still closed and being guarded by two deputies Thursday afternoon.
At just after 1:15 p.m., representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and other law-enforcement agencies were seen outside the hospital’s emergency room.
Sheriff Lane Carter and Capt. Ronnie Fields were observed huddled together with several people, including a woman who was crying and wiping away tears.
By mid-afternoon Thursday, the mood at the Moore County Sheriff’s Office was described as somber. Some individuals were seen crying.
“What a lot of people don’t realize, or take for granted,” Caddell said, “is that these guys (law officers) get in their cars every day and don’t know if they are coming home.”
Foxfire Mayor George Erickson said Rhyne will be missed by village residents.
“He was here for 25 years,” Erickson said. “He had a great way of working with the citizens of the community. I know members of the community are going to be shocked to hear this news.”
The last Moore County officer to be killed in the line of duty was Southern Pines Chief Edwin Newton. He was killed attempting to disarm a man wielding a shotgun. Southern Pines Detective Ed Harris was assassinated in 1991.
In 2009, Carthage police officer Justin Garner was wounded while apprehending convicted mass murderer Robert Stewart at Pinelake Nursing Home. Garner is now a State Highway Patrol Trooper.
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