JONESVILLE — A 24-year-old Highway Patrol trooper is dead following a crash on I-77 near Jonesville late Monday evening, and a suspect from Elkin is now in custody on murder charges.
Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard, a three-year veteran of the State Highway Patrol who was a graduate of East Wilkes High School, was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It’s a tough day for our agency,” said Sgt. Chris Knox of the State Highway Patrol Public Information Office.
Knox said that two troopers assigned to Surry County were conducting a license check at 10:50 p.m. on Monday when a BMW failed to stop at the check point. Knox said the officers went in pursuit of the vehicle, traveling onto I-77 into Yadkin County.
Trooper P.E. Ellis, who was directly behind the suspect vehicle, noticed his fellow officer was no longer behind him, Knox said. He attempted to reach Bullard on the radio and when he could not make contact, he gave up pursuing the vehicle and returned to find that Bullard had been involved in a crash.
Bullard’s vehicle had traveled off the roadway to the right and struck a bridge support. The vehicle caught fire as a result of the crash.
In a release Tuesday evening, the Highway Patrol announced that the BMW along with its registered owner, Michaela Cheyenne Harrison had been located.
The driver of the vehicle, Dakota Kape Whitt, 22, was taken into custody about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday without incident, according to a Wednesday press release. Whitt was transported to Wilkes County Dentention Center in Wilkesboro and is facing charges of murder, felony fleeing to elude arrest in a motor vehicle and driving with a revoked license.
“It is difficult to swallow,” Knox said of the accident. “We’re mourning our family member right now. We know we have a job to do, there’s an investigation going on into the crash. There’s an investigation going on into the individuals that were involved and there are members across the state right now trying to protect other people from being involved in collisions.”
In the news release from the Highway Patrol Tuesday morning, Col. Glenn M. McNeill Jr., commander of the agency, said, “Our SHP family is devastated by the loss of Trooper Bullard. We are struggling to find words that describe the hurting we feel right now. Trooper Bullard died as he was fulfilling his promise to the people of North Carolina, protecting and serving his community.”
Secretary Erik Hooks of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety added, “With great sadness, we acknowledge the line of duty death of State Highway Patrol Trooper Bullard. My prayers are with Trooper Bullard’s family and our State Highway Patrol family. Our law enforcement professionals face dangers daily in carrying out the mission to protect our communities. Throughout the department, we mourn the loss of our fallen comrade.”