Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Felon Sentenced to 60 Years in Federal Prison Following Shooting of a Lenoir County Deputy and Carjacking Victim and Multi-Day Man Hunt

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. – A Kinston man was sentenced today to 720 months in prison after shooting a Lenoir County Sheriff’s Deputy and leading law enforcement on a multi-day man hunt before shooting a neighbor and being apprehended with a loaded semi-automatic weapon with the safety set to fire.  On October 16, 2023, Robert Lee Strother pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carjacking, and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence

“Robert Strother was one-man crime spree – shooting a Lenoir County deputy in the neck with an assault rifle, leading law enforcement on a multi-day manhunt, and carjacking a neighbor at gunpoint before shooting him,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley.  “I personally met with the victims in this case and know the toll it has taken on them and their families.  They are remarkable people who are lucky to be alive.  We won’t tolerate violent carjacking or attacks on law enforcement in Eastern North Carolina.  These cases will always be among our highest priorities – our cops and our communities deserve no less.” 

According to court documents and other information presented in court, Strother, 34, was standing in the driveway of a residence in La Grange when Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a call of a woman being held against her will during the evening hours of November 19, 2020.  As Deputy Steven Key exited his patrol vehicle and approached the residence, Strother, who was wearing a tactical vest, reached into a parked vehicle, retrieved an AR-style rifle, and fired a round at Deputy Key, striking him in the neck. The bullet then traveled through the deputy and into a residence through a bedroom where a child was sleeping, through the living room and into a pantry.  Strother then fled on foot and a multi-day, multi-agency manhunt followed.

Tactical vest
Firearm on ground

The next morning, deputies searching for Strother heard multiple gunshots fired in the same residential area, and Lenoir County dispatchers received a 911 call notifying them that a man had been shot outside his residence and that his truck had been stolen.  The victim would later describe to investigators that Strother rushed out of the woods with a high-powered rifle, demanded his truck, and shot him multiple times in the abdomen and hand as he was surrendering control of the vehicle.  Following the shooting, deputies found a tactical vest similar to what Strother had been seen wearing when he shot Deputy Key. The vest contained Strother’s identification card from the Case Turkey Plant and three AR-style thirty round magazines loaded with ammunition.

The following day, dispatchers received another 911 call reporting that Strother had been seen with a firearm in the yard of a Kinston residence.  Law enforcement responded to the residence and observed Strother attempt to flee the area while carrying an AR-style rifle.  Strother turned and raised the rifle towards law enforcement vehicles and personnel.  Officers fired multiple rounds, striking Strother, and causing him to drop the rifle.  Strother was taken into custody and treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel reported that Strother tried to head butt one of the EMS personnel as they tried to treat him.  Officers processed the scene where Strother was arrested and collected his prison ID card and a DPMS, caliber 7.62X39MM, model A-15 semiautomatic rifle with a round loaded in the chamber, a loaded magazine with 14 rounds and the safety switch set to fire. Ballistics testing by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation later confirmed that the shell casings from the shootings of Deputy Key and Mr. Goff matched Strother’s rifle. At the time of these shootings, Strother was on post-release supervision in the state of North Carolina for a 2014 conviction for felony assault on a law enforcement officer. 

Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charity Wilson and Caroline Webb prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:20-CR-119-D.

Updated May 7, 2024

Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime