Police in North Carolina asked to check on the welfare of an elderly Army veteran ended up shooting him dead. James Howard Allen had recently undergone heart surgery, and police in Gastonia say that after relatives concerned about his well-being called them on Saturday night, they knocked on his door and checked local hospitals before entering his home through the back door just before midnight, the Charlotte Observer reports. They found the 74-year-old holding a handgun, and when he was told to lay it down, "the gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him," a police spokesman says.
Police say they entered the house assisted by firefighters and announced their presence, but relatives and neighbors, who describe Allen as harmless and frail, wonder if the situation could have been handled differently. "The thing I questioned is why make a wellness call at midnight?" one neighbor tells WSOC. Family members and friends think Allen may have feared he was in danger: "(He) probably woke up, someone's breaking in on me, so when you're by yourself you try to protect yourself," says his brother-in-law; a friend adds, "You kicked the man's door in. He's disoriented and he's in his own house, privacy of his own home." The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave; state authorities are investigating the shooting. (New Jersey police recently killed a man who had his arms raised.)