Detectives’ discovery of blood inside of a tow truck after a fatal shooting two months ago behind a small shopping center in northwest Raleigh appears to support the driver’s assertion that he got into a physical altercation with a man who attacked him inside of the vehicle.
A search warrant application made public Monday at the Wake County Clerk of Courts also named the tow truck driver, Jason Bowling, who fired multiple hollow point bullets from a .40 caliber handgun, killing Taurean Whitfield Sutton, 30, of Raleigh.
Bowling was employed by Unlimited Recovery, a towing company located south of downtown Raleigh. A company receptionist said Bowling was not at the business Monday. Efforts to speak with the company owner, Tad Lowdermilk, were unsuccessful.
After consulting with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, Raleigh police have not charged Bowling, though they say their investigation is continuing.
District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said if charges are not filed, she or the Raleigh Police Department will “issue a detailed statement of the circumstances.”
Bowling shot and killed Sutton on April 14, at about 10:50 p.m. during an altercation in northwest Raleigh. Moments before the shooting Bowling warned Sutton to back away from his truck and told him he had a gun, according to a recording of a 911 call made public by the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center.
“What, you wanna die?” Sutton asked Bowling at one point, adding that he “didn’t give a [expletive deleted] about your gun.” What follows are sounds of a struggle and what seems to be a gunshot, followed by a pause and what sounds like several more shots.
Police have said that Sutton was shot after he entered the cab of Bowling’s 2009 Dodge tow truck during an argument with the driver shortly before 11 p.m. on April 14 on St. Giles Street, behind the Oak Park Shopping Center on Glenwood Avenue.
The search warrant application indicated that officers found Sutton in the middle of St. Giles Street, mortally wounded. Bowling was working in an apartment complex towing cars that did not have permission to park there. He drove away to a nearby shopping center, called 911 and waited for the police.
“I was attacked inside the tow truck,” Bowling told an emergency dispatcher. “I had no other choice but to do it. I pulled out my firearm, and I fired several shots.”
It was the second of two calls Bowling made that night: the first that recorded the confrontation with Sutton and a second from a borrowed phone at the shopping center after the shooting.
Neither call makes clear why Sutton confronted the driver.
Police detective J.L. Zellmer stated in the search warrant application that Bowling shot Sutton with a handgun that he kept in the tow truck. Police found the weapon underneath the tow truck’s center armrest. They also found blood on the armrest and on the ceiling behind the rearview mirror, according to the search warrant.
Emergency workers transported Sutton to WakeMed, where he was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m., according to the search warrant.
Sutton was the father of three children, including a daughter born April 5 who lives with her mother at Raleigh Gardens, near where the shooting happened. Sutton was apparently upset because his car had been towed the day before from Raleigh North, a public housing complex east of downtown, several miles away. Sutton’s Toyota Solara had been towed by Betts Towing Company to its location on Mitchell Mill Road, police reported.
Hours before he was shot, Sutton had asked a friend, Derrick Mitchell of Raleigh, for a ride to his car because he wanted to get some of his belongings out of it. Mitchell, 35, said Sutton could not afford the $300 bill needed to get the car out, but he wanted to retrieve a baby seat and other items.
In addition to a black and silver handgun, investigators seized a .40 caliber bullet chamber, seven .40 caliber bullets and a black ZTE cell phone underneath a clipboard behind the driver seat of the tow truck, according to the search warrant.