Charlotte Officers Shot
Updated: April 6th, 2006 02:50 PM EDT
By Scott Dodd, Melissa Manware and Danica Coto
Knight Ridder via Knight Ridder
A day of danger and frustration in Charlotte's University area started and ended with gunfire, leaving a rape suspect wounded and two police officers - including a former Myrtle Beach resident - shot in the head.
One officer is recovering after brain surgery.
The other officer was protected by a Kevlar helmet.
The seven-hour standoff on W.T. Harris Boulevard snarled traffic throughout a busy section of the city and stranded hundreds of students at school long after classes ended.
It paralyzed a neighborhood as police crouched in backyards and behind squad cars, aiming their guns at the two-story gray house where a shooter kept them at bay.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Kayvan Hazrati, 37, a longtime patrolman who is engaged to be married, was shot in the forehead Wednesday morning while serving a rape warrant at the house on Norcroft Drive.
Hazrati attended Myrtle Beach High School, and Myrtle Beach police helped drive his family to Charlotte on Wednesday, said Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall.
The bullet bored about three inches into his brain, but it could have been worse, doctors said.
Hazrati and nine other officers - part of a recently formed task force that apprehends violent criminals - were looking for Christopher Ellerbe of Sumter County, who is accused of raping his girlfriend's 18-year-old daughter Tuesday morning.
Ellerbe was hiding out at the home of his brother, Ricky Ellerbe.
When police knocked on the door shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, the other people in the home came out.
But Christopher Ellerbe stayed inside, police say, and fired several shots, apparently out of a side window.
One hit Hazrati in the left side of the forehead, around the hairline.
Hazrati's fellow officers ran into the line of fire to pull him to safety, then put him in the back of a patrol car, and raced him to Carolinas Medical Center-University, police say.
After stabilizing him, doctors sent Hazrati in an ambulance to CMC's main hospital, with police cars as an escort.
Seven hours later, he'd be joined by the man who police say shot him, now with gunshot wounds of his own.
Serving the warrantPolice in Sumter accuse Christopher Ellerbe of rape.
They charged him with criminal sexual conduct Tuesday, saying he assaulted his girlfriend's daughter after the mother went to work, then threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
The daughter reported the incident and went to the hospital, according to a police report. Police looked for Ellerbe, 32, with dogs and a helicopter Tuesday but couldn't find him.
Ellerbe has a criminal record that includes armed robbery. He was sentenced in 1990 to 15 to 25 years in prison, police say. It's unclear how long he served.
He comes from a big family in South Carolina. His brother, Oliver Ellerbe, said Wednesday that the family includes six brothers and six sisters.
Oliver didn't know the standoff was going on and said he hadn't talked to Ricky Ellerbe, the brother who lives in Charlotte, for a couple of years.
The officers who tried to take him into custody Wednesday morning included seven from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, a Mecklenburg County sheriff's deputy and two federal agents.
They're part of a new unit formed in January under the Street Crimes Task Force, said Capt. Kerr Putney, who oversees the group.
Their standard procedure is to approach a suspect's home wearing bulletproof vests, Putney said. When they believe a suspect is armed, they can bring in a SWAT team.
In this case, Putney said, the officers had no reason to believe Ellerbe posed a significant threat, so they followed standard procedure, knocking on the door and calling out the occupants.
The bullet that pierced Hazrati's brain pushed fragments of his skull into his brain - but the impact slowed it down enough to reduce the damage, doctors say.
"If you had to be shot in the head, that's the place to be hit" because of the thickness of the skull, said Dr. Chris Tomaszewski, the emergency room doctor who treated Hazrati.
Doctors weren't sure at first whether they'd take the bullet out. Removing it could do more harm than good, they said.
But during an hour and a half in surgery, neurosurgeon Dr. Hunter Dyer decided the bullet could safely go.
"The way he looks now is very encouraging," Dyer said after the operation.
Hazrati will likely be in the hospital for about a week. He was injured in the left frontal lobe, which is responsible for speech and personality.
He was doing well Wednesday evening, moving his feet, lifting his legs and sticking out his tongue. He was able to write and communicate by other means but had trouble talking.
Doctors aren't sure if the condition is permanent and said Hazrati may require rehabilitation or future operations.
"It's still real early," Dyer said.
Officers from Myrtle Beach drove his father halfway, where Charlotte officers picked him up.
But Hazrati's mother was in Ohio, visiting relatives. When Duke Energy's corporate security chief Mike Frankovich heard about the problem from off-duty officers who work for Duke, he arranged to have her flown in.
North American Security Solutions of Dayton, Ohio, delivered Hazrati's mother on a corporate jet Wednesday evening.
The long waitIn Charlotte's University area, the standoff dragged on throughout the afternoon.
Ellerbe's brother, Ricky, the home's owner, chose to stay inside with his brother as officers crouched in a patch of woods in the back yard, police said.
Officers used a blue-armored truck to move men and equipment around, and helmeted SWAT officers perched their rifles on the brick entrance sign to the Norcroft neighborhood.
People down the street watched the standoff unfold on TV as police and news helicopters hovered above.
"They came to our door and told us to stay inside," said neighbor Donald Green, who lives nearby.
At one point, more than two dozen patrol cars were parked on Harris Boulevard, many with officers shielded behind them with guns drawn.
Closing busy Harris Boulevard meant a traffic nightmare for residents.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools couldn't send about 1,000 students home, because their buses couldn't pass into the restricted zone.
Police talked to the Ellerbe brothers throughout the day, convincing Ricky to leave the house about 4:30 p.m.
Christopher wouldn't, though, saying he didn't want to go back to jail and talking about suicide.
About 6:30 p.m., police shot gas canisters into the house and forced Christopher Ellerbe onto the back porch. He was wearing a bathrobe and hiding one hand behind his back.
"When he finally showed it, he still had the gun in his hands," police spokesman Keith Bridges said. Officers told him to drop the weapon, Bridges said, but he charged and fired a shot.
For the second time in eight hours, he hit an officer in the head.
This time, the bullet bounced off a SWAT helmet, leaving the officer uninjured.
Another SWAT officer fired several times, hitting Ellerbe in the lower body and bringing him down, Bridges said.
He was alive and conscious when an ambulance took him to Carolinas Medical Center, Bridges said.
The injuries didn't appear life-threatening.
Well, I am glas the Officers are in OK shape.
What I don't understand is why a convicted felon had a gun? There are laws against that, so did he not know about them? The law clearly states that a felon can't own a gun. I don't understand why this guy was armed... the laws are supposed to stop this....
no a liberal would believe that if all guns were illegalized than this would not have happened.
they should have killed the scumbag.
if all the shots were in the lower extremities, I wonder if this is the "pelvic shot" that officers are being encouraged to go for (big target, drops assailant instantly)
Glad one officer had a helmet on.
I'm doing work out here in Charlotte. This happened near my hotel. Crazy
God Bless. Prayers sent.
Wonder what the caliber was.
Good shooting for a Thug, Cops should have splattered his Brains on the Grass though.
Prayer sent for Officer Hazrati and his family.
I really hate the perp lived. Really, really hate it.
Similar thing happened when I lived in Nashville.
Cops were serving a warrant, perp hid in the attic. One of the detectives stuck his head up into the attic and the perp shot and killed him. Cops quickly surrounded the house, HOWEVER, they let the slain detectives partner go in alone to 'reason' with the shooter. Amazingly only the detective came out alive.
Strangely, I'm okay with that.
Looks like they were trying to shoot his testicles off.
Makes two of us.
Sometimes the only 'reasoning' a murderer understand comes from the barrel of a gun.
But, on the bright side, maybe the perp will get to spend a long and close time with Big Bubba at the pen.
Ellerbe must be a G. Gordon Liddy fan.
Let's hope so.