Policing in Eastern Carolina: Deadly Dangers

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 6:54 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Last year in the United States 246 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. Sixty of those deaths were by gunfire. Behind every one of those numbers are families, loved ones and friends left to grieve and somehow carry on.

As we continue our week-long series looking at Policing in Eastern Carolina, our focus is on the danger law enforcement officers face.

Katherine Pearson knows that danger all too well.

It was in May of 2007 that she married her husband Allen Pearson. She says, “He was a great guy.”

Katherine would go from her happiest day to her darkest day less than two years later. “That was absolutely the worst night of the whole family’s lives.”

That night was April 8th, 2009. It’s when her husband, Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office Detective Allen Pearson, just 29 years old, was shot and killed in the line of duty while he and others worked to arrest a murder suspect.

Katherine says when the call came in that night about an armed suspect in the woods, she and Allen had already gone to bed. She says he got up and headed out. “And then the next thing I knew he walked back through the door and was like, I forgot my handcuffs. So those little things I’m thankful for now because I got one more I love you and one more kiss. I remember sitting on the front step and I watched him leave and I was nervous. Was very nervous. But he would always come home so you just honestly expect that they’ll come home.”

But this tragic night he didn’t and it changed Katherine’s life forever. “It’s been tough. Ya know, I miss him every day. What I’ve learned about grief is it is something you face every single day. It does not end. Personally, when I wake up every day I’ve lost my husband again.”

The death of Detective Pearson affected so many people. Not just his family, but the community as well, and also the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office, especially those who were his close friends and working with him that night.

Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Shawn Howard was close friends with Allen. “I think about it every day.”

He was also among those on the scene that night when Allen was shot. “We then began myself and another officer that was with him began working on him immediately to determine the extent of his injuries.”

While time has passed, Allen’s loss is something Howard still deals with to this day. “It’s a process. It’s been a process for the last 14 years.”

And It’s another unfortunate reminder of the dangers law enforcement officers face every day and the sacrifices they and their families make to keep people and communities safe.

Katherine says, “I was very proud of Allen and what he did and he loved his community and he wanted the best for his community.”

Today, Pearson Park in Kinston serves as a lasting tribute to him, as do the safety measures Howard says have been enacted at the sheriff’s office since. “In assuring that our officers have the right equipment, the best equipment to deal with situations we’re confronted with on a daily basis.”

It’s all part of the legacy Allen leaves behind. Howard says, “He went above and beyond service of his community and that’s what I would say that his legacy is, is the commitment to serve and be there and stand behind his community.”

Katherine recalls, “He loved being law enforcement. He loved his community. He loved his family deeply and he loved his friends and he was a good man.”

Allen followed in his family’s footsteps in law enforcement, doing what his dad did. Katherine says It’s what he wanted to do and was his passion.

She says she is thankful for family, friends, and faith that have all helped her carry on.

We’ll continue our look at Policing in Eastern Carolina Wednesday at six as we examine what community organizations and law enforcement are doing to work together.

Click here to watch Monday’s report on Policing in Eastern Carolina: The Veteran and the Rookie.