Man killed in shootout once was local racing star

John Settlemyre won 6 races in NASCAR's second tier
Jun. 08, 2013 @ 07:46 AM

Folks interviewed in the neighborhood that was the scene of a gunbattle Thursday morning that left one man dead said they knew little about the man or his wife, who they said kept to themselves.

But John Settlemyre, 67, who died in the shootout with Caldwell County sheriff's deputies, was a former race car driver with some notable regional achievements to his name.

Settlemyre was a five-time winner of Late Model Sportsman races at Hickory Motor Speedway, from 1977-81. In 1982, that race series became NASCAR's Nationwide Series, and Settlemyre won the Winston 200 at Hickory; he ran just six Nationwide races that year (five at Hickory) but had four top-10 finishes.

One neighbor said Settlemyre more recently had been a long-haul trucker but had since retired.

As much as an enigma as Settlemyre may have been to his neighbors before, he will remain in their memories now. The sounds of the gunbattle that erupted Thursday morning in that neighborhood off Grace Chapel Road has left those who were within earshot wondering how the quiet residential area turned into the scene of a firefight.

Jack Baird, manager of the nearby Lake Valley Convenience Store and an avid hunter, was outside when he heard two rounds from what he guessed was a high-caliber pistol go off, followed by a barrage of gunfire.

“The rounds kept popping off,” Baird said. “There was a lot of yelling and screaming going on down there.”

Deputies had come to John and Linda Settlemyre's house at 5490 Northwood Drive in response to a report of some kind of trouble. They spoke to Linda Settlemyre. Her husband was barricaded in the basement. At some point as deputies approached the rear of the house they heard loud noises from the basement. Deputies tried to make contact, but John Settlemyre came out with guns, and there was a shootout between him and the deputies. He then ran and collapsed in the backyard, where he died.

Jennifer Canada, a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Justice, identified the four deputies involved as Jonathon Shane Kirby, 31; Steven David Ellis, 34; Kenneth Edward Bentley, 39; and Shaun Michael Gates, 27. None were injured.

Ben Jenkins and his fiancee, who just recently moved in across the street from the Settlemyres, had been enjoying the morning after their first night in their new house when everything started.

“I remember the first two shots,” Jenkins said. “I was sitting on the couch, and it sounded like someone was banging on the garage door. I went to the garage to see what was going on, and I heard lots of yelling, then more gunfire.”

Brad Blaisdell watched the scene unfold nearby from between the blinds in his dining room.

“I heard two gunshots, then multiple gunshots,” Blaisdell said. “It was rapid-fire rounds, a very distinct sound. I looked out the window and saw a lot of police. I asked one of them what was going on, and he said, ‘We’ve got a guy that’s shooting at us.’”

Not knowing if there was a gunman on the loose, Blaisdell locked his doors. He looked out a window and saw three uniformed officers approaching, glancing up and down at his roof. He then heard a knock on the door.

“One of them asked for a ladder, and if he could get up on the roof,” he said.

The rooftop perch provided the officers with a clear line of sight into the Settlemyres' back yard, where the shooting happened.

When the gunfire ended, Blaisdell saw an officer reach down beside the Settlemyres' garage and carefully pick up a pistol. He also saw Linda Settlemyre standing in the driveway being comforted.

When the rooftop snipers came down, Blaisdell asked if they got the guy, and one of them told him yes.