CANTON, N.C. — Authorities arrested a Florida man late Tuesday and charged him with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting and killing a state Highway Patrol trooper.
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 Interstate 40 near exit 31 about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday for an unknown reason, Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said.
"An altercation occurred between Trooper Blanton and Wong, and Blanton was fatally shot," Clendenin said.
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.
Wong removed the trooper’s weapon and fled the scene, authorities said. But it was unclear if that was the gun used to kill Blanton.
A passer-by called authorities to report that Blanton had been shot. He died at Mission Hospitals in Asheville, Patrol First Sgt. S.D. Greene said.
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.
Records from the Florida Department of Corrections indicate 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 formed in 1929, and the first to be fatally assaulted 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 have been established to assist Blanton's family at the State Employees Credit Union and at the Arden, Canton and Clyde branches of Champion Credit Union.