Authorities arrested a 22-year-old man early Wednesday on a murder charge in the death of State Trooper Samuel Bullard, whose cruiser crashed Monday night while he and another trooper were chasing the man's car on Interstate 77 in Yadkin County.
Dakota Kape Whitt of Elkin was arrested about 3:30 a.m., the State Highway Patrol said.
Troopers charged Whitt with murder, felony fleeing to elude police and driving with a revoked license.
Bullard, 24, was killed in the crash during a chase that began late Monday in Surry County after a black BMW refused to stop for a driver's-license checkpoint that Bullard and another trooper were conducting.
Bullard had been with the highway patrol for three years, officials said. He was assigned to Surry County, where the chase began.
Bullard and Trooper P.E. Ellis were conducting the checkpoint about 10:45 p.m. on a Surry County road when a black BMW drove past them instead of stopping, highway patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Michael Baker said.
The troopers began the chase, which 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.
Police radios had broadcast an alert Tuesday morning about the black BMW involved in the chase.
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.”