A 24-year-old North Carolina state trooper died Monday night when his cruiser crashed into a bridge abutment on Interstate 77 while he and another trooper were chasing a car that had refused to stop at a checkpoint, the State Highway Patrol said.
Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard had been with the highway patrol for three years, officials said.
Bullard was assigned to Surry County, where the chase began.
Bullard and Trooper P.E. Ellis were conducting a driver license checkpoint were conducting a drivers-license checkpoint about 10:45 p.m. on a Surry County road when a black BMW ran past them instead of stopping, highway patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Michael Baker said.
The troopers began a chase that led onto I-77 southbound and into Yadkin County, the highway patrol said.
Bullard was the secondary car in the chase, the cruiser that keeps dispatchers apprised of the chase location and road and traffic conditions while the primary car concentrates on the fleeing vehicle.
When Ellis, who was in the lead cruiser, lost sight of Bullard's lights in his rear-view mirror and could not raise Bullard by radio, he broke off the chase and headed back north, Baker said.
Ellis found Bullard's cruiser off the side of the interstate, where it had stopped after hitting the bridge abutment at about the 80 mile marker, troopers said.
The crash scene was about a mile north of Exit 79, where the the interstate meets U.S. 21 and U.S. Business 21.
Bullard was dead at the scene.
“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,” said Col. Glenn M. McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “Trooper Bullard died as he was fulfilling his promise to the people of North Carolina, protecting and serving his community.”
The highway patrol said it was investigating how the crash happened and was working with several police agencies to find the fleeing car, using information troopers had from the chase.
Police radios Tuesday morning carried a lookout notice for the black BMW involved in the chase and indicated police had the car's registration number.
Erik Hooks, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, issued a statement saying: “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.”