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Wake County Teen Charged With Murder In Deputy's Death; 2 Friends Charged With Accessory

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Acting on a tip received from a hotline, the Wake County Sheriff's Office has arrested three people in connection with the shooting death of deputy Mark Tucker.

Deputies said they received a call at 10:15 p.m. Friday. Three teenagers, two from Cary and one from Apex, were arrested separately early Saturday.

Matthew Charles Grant, of Apex, has been charged with first-degree murder. He was taken into custody about 1 a.m. Saturday after a traffic stop.

Lawson Alan Rankin III and Justin Daniel Franke each has been charged with accessory after the fact. They were arrested about 7 a.m. Saturday.

Grant was on felony probation for breaking into cars and larceny.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Grant confessed to killing Tucker, adding that the gun used to kill Tucker has been recovered.

Harrison said that, while deputies were waiting to get paperwork together for an arrest, Grant left his home and committed some traffic violations. Police stopped him and brought him in for questioning.

Tucker, who was on duty at the time, was found dead beside his unmarked cruiser in a field across the street from his home Thursday afternoon. He had been shot in the face, and his gun was still in its holster.

Harrison said Grant had a shotgun and was in the field taking target practice when Tucker pulled up on him. Harrison said Grant saw it was an officer, panicked because he was on probation, and shot Tucker.

A man driving with his child saw Tucker's body in the field and went to a nearby residence to phone police, who arrived at the scene moments later.

Investigators believe Tucker may have been at home for lunch, seen something suspicious in the field and gone to investigate.

Harrison said all three suspects are friends and tried to come up with an alibi together. He said Grant was the only one in the field when Tucker was shot.

"It's sad not only for the Tucker family, for the sheriff's office, but also the Grant family," "Harrison said. "It's sad that a young man wastes his life like this."

Grant's parents said in a prepared statement that they are praying for Tucker's family.

Gail and David Grant called the shooting "a senseless act by one young man" that has ruined many lives, including the "friends who tried to cover up for him.

"Eventually, most of us will pull ourselves together and get on with our lives," the statement said. "But that will never happen to two individuals, one living and one dead."

Tucker had worked with the sheriff's department from 1976 to 1999, when he was appointed to the U.S. Marshal's Office for the eastern district of North Carolina.

The married father of two grown sons returned to the sheriff's office in 2002.

Tucker's funeral was set for Monday at a Raleigh church, with visitation Sunday afternoon.

Harrison said Tucker's family is relieved by the arrests.

"It's some closure," Harrison said.

Tucker is the third Wake County sheriff's deputy to die in the line of duty since September. The other two were killed in car accidents.

Harrison said about 150 officers from many local and federal agencies worked together around the clock to bring the quick arrests.

"It makes us feel good," Harrison said. "I'm elated that we have done this as quickly as we have."

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Paul Ensslin, Web Editor

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