On Friday evening, October 1, 2021, at approximately 9 p.m. Craven County deputies responded to a residence located at 165 Crooked Run Dr., New Bern to serve an Involuntary Commitment Order issued by the magistrate on Robert Joseph Westrup, age 41. After initially speaking with the deputies, Westrup became noncompliant and proceeded to go to the upstairs area of the residence. Deputies followed Westrup and attempted to take him into custody at which time he became combative. During an attempt to restrain Westrup, he produced a handgun and shot Deputy Zachary Bellingham in the abdomen, incapacitating Bellingham. Deputies then returned fire during the exchange of gunfire with Westrup. Two deputies took cover in an upstairs bedroom but were unable to exit the residence due to the location of Westrup. Other deputies on scene were able to remove Deputy Bellingham and call for assistance.
Once additional deputies arrived, they were able to provide cover to allow the two deputies to exit the residence. Numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and first responders arrived to assist the Craven County Sheriff’s Office. A State Bureau of Investigation negotiator attempted to talk Westrup out of the residence with no response. Tear gas was deployed into the residence during which time the negotiator continued to attempt to get the subject to comply. Shortly after the tear gas was deployed Westrup exited the residence and complied with deputies’ commands and was taken into custody without incidence.
Deputy Bellingham was transported to CarolinaEast Medical Center, and then flown by helicopter to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville where he underwent emergency surgery for the gunshot wound. He is expected to survive, however the extent of his injuries are undetermined at this time. Craven County deputies are remaining at the hospital with Deputy Bellingham.
Westrup was transported to CarolinaEast Medical Center, and then flown to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville for treatment of a single gunshot would. He was treated and released at which time he was taken into custody by Craven County deputies and transported to the Craven County Detention Facility. He is charged with Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer with a Deadly Weapon and Attempted First Degree Murder. He is being held under a two million dollar secured bond. Additional charges will be filed at a later date.
In accordance with policy, at the request of Sheriff Chip Hughes and District Attorney Scott Thomas, the State Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation into the shooting.
Contrary to a story posted on social media by a local news source, law enforcement officers did not shoot at the suspect to “lure him out”, and they did not “shoot the suspect while removing him”. The suspect received a single gunshot would in the initial exchange of gunfire with deputies after he shot Deputy Bellingham. No officer discharged their weapon at any point after that time.
Sheriff Hughes thanks the many people in our community who have reached out in support of the Sheriff’s Office and deputies during this difficult time and ask that everyone keep Deputy Bellingham in their thoughts and prayers during what will be a lengthy recovery.
By Sheriff Hughes