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Police identify officer, suspect in shooting death

Hendersonville Police Chief Herbert Blake speaks at a news conference about the shooting death of a suspected drug dealer. Hendersonville Police Chief Herbert Blake speaks at a news conference about the shooting death of a suspected drug dealer.

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A Hendersonville police detective shot and killed a suspected drug dealer in the Walmart parking lot after the suspect resisted arrest and appeared to be reaching for a .40-caliber pistol in his waistband, police said.

"When you try to make an arrest sometimes those arrests don't go well," Police Chief Herbert Blake said at a news conference Friday morning, 12 hours after the shooting death. "A suspect at that time may decide that he does not want to be arrested. And that's basically what happened. When the officer on scene tried to effect an arrest, use of force was necessary and it led to him discharging his firearm."

Officers performed first aid on the suspect, Rufus Cedric Baker, until medical personnel arrived and transported him to Pardee Hospital, where he died, police said.

Later Friday, police identified the officer as Detective Brandon McGaha, a 12-year veteran of the department and the supervisor of its ACE team, a special unit responsible for addressing street level crimes including drugs, prostitution and theft. The incident occurred during an active drug enforcement operation. Detective McGaha and other members of the ACE team were in uniform and easily identified as police, the department said.

Baker never got out of the 2016 Ford Focus he was driving. Instead, he drove away, crashing into other cars.

"That was the suspect, trying to get away," Blake said when asked about the wreck cars. He defended the officer's deadly use of force.

"If there's a drug deal and a gun's involved you have to support the officer and assume that he out there knows what he's doing and knows what he's up against," he said.

The supect was "transported to Pardee Hospital after the officers on scene rendered medical aid," Blake said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

In a statement, police said the officer shot the suspect when he "appeared to be reaching for a weapon in his waistband."

"He was in his car. He never got out of the car and it went downhill when the officer tried to arrest him," Blake said. "He tried to drive off. He was blocked in. I think this officer did what was appropriate to save lives, including his own."

Baker, 32, of Buncombe County, has a record of convictions dating back 14 years. He was sentenced to seven years and five months in prison in July 2012 on charges that included larceny, credit card fraud, obtaining property by false pretense and being a habitual felon. He was released from prison on July 24 of this year, according to the state Department of Public Safety records. Since 2003, when he was 18, Baker had been convicted of larceny, injury to property, possession of drug paraphernalia, receiving a stolen vehicle, speeding to elude arrest, armed robbery and other crimes. He served nine months of a 10-month sentence on the earlier charges and was released in June 2010.

Blake said if there is dash cam or body cam footage or parking lot security video, investigators would want to see it.

"We're looking into that to see if any of that may be available and if it is that would be obviously something that the SBI would have," he said.

The SBI has taken over the investigation of the shooting. The Hendersonville police department is conducting its own internal investigation. McGaha has been placed on paid administrative leave, following the protocols and procedures of the Police Department.

Investigators recovered a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and 14 bags of "what we believe to be crystal meth and methamphetamine," Blake said. "This was a seller." Asked whether there was a buyer, he said, "There was an informant involved and that is as much as I'll say about that."

Information regarding the number of shots fired, a specific timeline of events and location of involved vehicles remains under investigation, the police said.