Officer James William Nunalee, Sr.

Officer James William Nunalee, Sr.

Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina

End of Watch Tuesday, April 4, 1978

James William Nunalee, Sr.

Officer James Nunalee was ambushed and killed as he exited a convenience store. He had just signed the log book in the store and was leaving when two masked men opened fire on him, striking him 21 times with a semi-automatic rifle. The two then stole his service revolver and fled.

Although police suspected a particular husband and wife team of the robbery/murder, there was never enough evidence to arrest them. The case remained unsolved for 24 years, until the suspects' son, who was in prison on drug and weapons charges, came forward to tell Wilmington police that his parents were responsible for Officer Nunaleeā€™s murder. That statement, along with other evidence collected over the years, led police to finally close the case. Investigators believe the husband shot Officer Nunalee as his wife stood by, refusing to shoot.

Officer Nunalee was survived by his wife and son.


  • Age 24
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Rifle; M-16
  • Offender Case never solved

Most Recent Reflection

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I was a police explorer with Wilmington PD when Billy Nunalee was murdered. Having been on several ride-along NGOs with Billy, I knew him as an easy going guy with a good sense of humor. I never pass the location where he died, that I don't think about him.

Captain Mose Highsmith
Brunswick County Sheriff's Office

March 10, 2017

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