Local News

Man dead, woman in custody 24 hours after cop was shot

Posted November 18, 2010 5:30 a.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2010 7:16 p.m. EST

— A man suspected of shooting a Roanoke Rapids police officer killed himself late Thursday morning, while a female suspect was taken into custody, police Chief Jeff Hinton said.

Michael Eugene Edgerton, 38, of Southampton, Penn., was found dead in a wooded area around Three Bridges Road, near Halifax Academy where the suspects ditched their car after the shooting Wednesday afternoon, Hinton said. A preliminary investigation found that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Officers never fired their weapons, Hinton said.

Neighbor key to woman's arrest 

A man who lives across the street from Halifax Academy, on Three Bridges Road, said he looked out his back door around 9 a.m. Thursday and spotted a woman cutting through his yard. The homeowner, who declined to give his name, described the woman as looking "cold and nervous." When he asked what she was doing in his yard, she said, "Just cutting through, sir," and she disappeared into the bushes.

"My instincts told me that's who they were looking for," he said.

The man said he then crossed the street and alerted officers that they might want to search his yard. He said officers with their weapons drawn and search dogs surrounded the woman until she emerged from the bushes.

Renee Michelle Phillips, 43, of Southampton, Penn., was charged Thursday afternoon with possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a stolen firearm and accessory after the fact of attempted murder. She was being held without bond at the Halifax County jail and will have a first court appearance Friday at 11 a.m.

Pennsylvania court records show that Phillips was charged in August with property theft and unauthorized used of a motor vehicle.

"It's very possible that she could have been there all night," the homeowner said.

The resident said he was still outside when another shot rang out.

"I heard one gun shot, that's all I heard," he said.

Officers ushered him from his home to a safer location until they found Edgerton, dead.

Chief: Danger has passed

Halifax Academy administrators canceled classes at the school Thursday, after the suspects' car was found abandoned there shortly after the shooting a day earlier.

"This incident has come to a close, as far as somebody being out and the public (being) in danger," Hinton said. "We feel like we've brought safety back to our neighborhood here in Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County."

Officer John Taylor was shot in the neck, upper torso and hand during a traffic stop on Interstate 95 at 2:24 p.m. Wednesday. Hinton said Thursday that Taylor's condition was stable after he underwent surgery at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville and that all hopes are that he'll make a full recovery.

Taylor, 31, has a wife and a young son. Hinton said Taylor had been on the force for five years and also has four years' experience with another department.

The Police Benevolent Association has set up a fund to help Taylor's family. Donations to the "Officer John Taylor Fund" can be made at any BB&T branch. You can also text "COPS Taylor" to 85944, and a $10 donation will be added to your cell phone bill.

Search lasted all night

The chain of events began when Taylor stopped a green 1997 Geo Prism for following another vehicle too closely on I-95, authorities said. He began talking to the female passenger, and within a few seconds, the male driver pulled out a gun and fired.

Taylor was wearing a bulletproof vest and stood away from the car, so his whole body wasn't presented to the occupants, the police chief said.

"He is one of my more safety-conscious officers," Hinton said. "Sometimes, I guess you could say, it's a perfect storm that comes together. It happened so fast."

Passing motorists stopped to help Taylor, and he was able to call in for help. After the shooting, police determined that the Prism had been reported stolen in Pennsylvania.

The man and woman fled south on I-95, then abandoned the Geo Prism in the parking lot of Halifax Academy. The school went into lockdown while the search began.

Police believe that the suspects ran to a wooded area about 100 yards from the school and stayed there overnight.

About 100 officers from local, state and federal agencies searched overnight in an 8- to 9-square-mile area for the man and woman.

Authorities set up road checkpoints and looked in the trunks of cars, the beds of pickup trucks and the backs of tractor-trailers. They flew helicopters with heat-seeking, infrared cameras, searched with K-9 units and knocked on doors. Signs warned motorists on I-95 not to pick up hitchhikers.

Investigators also worked closely with Pennsylvania authorities, Hinton said.