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Dog killed, deputy injured, house burned, man arrested after incident in Cleveland County

Deputies were looking to serve a domestic violence protective order on Aaron Lee Thomas when the incident occurred.

CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — A calamitous sequence of events led to a man's arrest, a dog's death, and an injured sheriff's deputy in rural Cleveland County.

The incident began on Friday, Jan. 13 around 2:40 p.m. on Whelchel Road in Cleveland County, just north of the North Carolina-South Carolina border. 

A law enforcement officer attempted to serve a domestic violence protection order on Aaron Lee Thomas, 42, according to a release. Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman says Thomas was due to be evicted from the home until he followed through on a domestic violence charge.

Thomas told the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office sergeant, "you will have to shoot me," and retreated back into his home. Thomas came back outside wielding a knife and a machete.

According to the release, deputies attempted to deescalate the situation as Thomas returned back inside the home. They then began to notice smoke coming from inside the home.

Thomas once again came back outside but now held a large dog by the collar. Deputies believed he might release the dog onto them.

A taser was used to incapacitate Thomas. As Thomas fell down and released the dog, the dog attacked a responding deputy. The deputy suffered multiple puncture wounds, according to the release. He was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released from medical care shortly after.

Another deputy on the scene shot and killed the dog after this attack. 

While this was happening, deputies noticed the home was now on fire. Deputies dragged Thomas away from the home as it became engulfed in flames, according to the release.

Thomas was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital for treatment of pre-existing conditions. He is still receiving treatment but will be charged with the following:

  • Second-degree arson
  • Felony assault on a law enforcement officer with serious injury
  • Felony assault on emergency personnel
  • Felony obstructing justice

Thomas has yet to be booked into Cleveland County jail as he is still receiving medical treatment.

"I am proud of our deputies for creating space and using time to try to peacefully resolve this situation," said Norman. Despite their best efforts, this man showed his intent to not cooperate through these extreme measures, and they risked their own lives to save him and bring him to justice.”

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