NC Trooper killed in the line of duty
HAYWOOD COUNTY -- Authorities charged a Florida man with first-degree murder Wednesday after a state Highway Patrol trooper was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in western North Carolina.
Edwardo Wong II, 37, of Ormond Beach, Fla., is in custody at the Haywood County Detention Center, about 20 miles west of Asheville. He does not yet have an attorney but is expected to appear with a lawyer at an initial court hearing Wednesday, said jail administrator Lt. Lucrecia Ray.
Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr., 24, was shot after he stopped a vehicle in the eastbound lanes of I-40 near exit 31 about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday, said Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin. Blanton later died at Mission Hospitals in Asheville.
Authorities said the shooting occurred after Blanton stopped a vehicle that was towing a passenger car for an unknown traffic violation.
Clendenin said Blanton was hit by two shots, one non life-threatening. The fatal shot entered his torso in an area not protected by his bulletproof vest, then struck organs inside his body.
Clendenin said Wong fled the scene after the shooting with the trooper's sidearm, but it was not yet clear if that was the gun used to kill Blanton. Patrol First Sgt. S.D. Greene said a passerby called police to report that Blanton had been shot.
Wong was arrested nearby by Haywood County sheriff's deputies and Canton police a short time later. Clendenin said police later found weapons and narcotics in Wong's vehicle.
Clendenin said the Wong was from Florida and was driving from Tennessee.
Records from the Florida Department of Corrections incidate Wong has 19 criminal convictions dating to 1996 that include armed burglary, assault with a weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, sale and possession of marijuana and escape. He was incarcerated in Florida from 1998 to 2005.
Blanton was a native of Sylva and a two-year veteran of the patrol. He was married and had one child. He is the 59th trooper to die in the line of duty since the North Carolina Highway Patrol was formed in 1929, and the first to be killed since 1997.
"Incidents like this remind us of what a dangerous profession law enforcement is," said Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Bryan E. Beatty in a statement.
Memorial funds established for Trooper Blanton's family:
State Employees Credit Union
c/o Michaela Blanton
Acct. # 60460003
Champion Credit Union
c/o Michaela Blanton
Arden, Canton, Clyde
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