A suspect in a Caldwell County murder was fatally shot in Traphill during an encounter with Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office deputies late Friday night, said Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew.

Thomas Charlie Billings, 37, died outside a mobile home near the end of Traphill Ridge Road after being shot by at least one Wilkes deputy, said Shew.

Shew said Billings pointed a rifle at deputies when they found him outside the mobile home and they didn’t realize it was a pellet rifle until after he was shot. They were looking for Billings in connection with a murder in Caldwell that occurred earlier Friday, he said.

“They told him to put it (the rifle) down multiple times and he (Billings) kept raising it up at them,” said Shew. Billings never fired the weapon, he added.

“I believe they acted appropriately because they couldn’t tell if it was a real gun. They would have had to have closely examined it to determine it was a pellet gun.”

Billings and the deputies “were fairly close” to each other during the encounter, he said.

Shew declined to say how many deputies fired their weapons, how many shots were fired or how many shots hit Billings. He said an autopsy is being conducted.

He said emergency medical personnel attempted to revive Billings at the scene. Wilkes Emergency Medical Services was dispatched at 11:40 p.m. Friday. Traphill Fire Department first responders also were dispatched.

Capt. Aaron Barlowe of the Caldwell Sheriff’s Office said Billings was being sought for the murder of Tracy Renee Rash, 31, of 2887 Sycamore Court, Granite Falls.

Barlowe said Rash was on the phone with a relative at the Sycamore Court address about 9 p.m. Friday when Billings attacked her and chased her down the street. The person Rash had been talking to on the phone called 911, and deputies arrived to find Rash dead at the side of the road with multiple knife wounds, Barlowe said.

He said Rash was Billings’ girlfriend and he had been living at her residence. “She had taken out a domestic violence (restraining) order on him (Billings) and we were trying to serve it Friday,” said Barlowe, adding that a man whom Caldwell deputies believe was Billings fled from them earlier that day.

Barlowe said Billings was believed to have taken Rash’s red Ford Focus and authorities in Wilkes were asked to be on the lookout for a vehicle matching that description, as well as Billings. He said the red Ford Focus was located in Traphill, but didn’t know the address.

Shew said Billings had lived on Traphill Ridge Road in the past but didn’t know if the mobile home near where deputies found him was his residence at the time of his death.

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