Local News

Trooper laughing, joking after being shot; Vermont man charged

Posted February 19, 2013 9:53 a.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2013 6:08 p.m. EST

— A suspect wanted in connection with the shooting of a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper Monday night was taken into police custody Tuesday morning at a Raleigh apartment complex after a massive manhunt involving officers from federal, state and several local law enforcement agencies.

Mikel Edward Brady, 23, of White Pine Drive in Durham, was arrested on one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury in the shooting that injured trooper Michael L. Potts, 42, an 11-year veteran with the Highway Patrol.

Brady was being held in the Durham County jail under an $8 million bond until his first court appearance Wednesday.

At a news conference at the Durham Police Department Tuesday afternoon, Kieran Shanahan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, said Potts was shot at an "extraordinarily close" range in the right hand, left hand, right shoulder and the right side of his face and that he had undergone two surgeries for his injuries.

Potts had stopped Brady for a seatbelt violation Monday about 6:15 p.m. on U.S. Highway 70 near Cheek Road in Durham.

"It was pretty miraculous that he survived," Shanahan said. "He made it back to his cruiser and really maintained his professionalism and was able to give a description."

Brady allegedly fled the scene in a black Nissan Maxima that was later found behind Los Comales de Durham restaurant at 2103 N. Roxboro St.

Authorities with at least nine law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, State Bureau of Investigation, Durham County Sheriff's Office, Wake County Sheriff's Office, Cary Police Department and Duke University Police Department worked on the case.

"Really good police work," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said, coupled with dash cam video and other technology led to Brady's arrest early Tuesday morning at Ashley Park Apartments in the Brier Creek area of Raleigh off U.S. 70.

"We're very grateful that a lot of things came together, but we would not have gotten as far as we did as fast as we did without the officer having the camera affixed to the front of the vehicle," Shanahan said.

The Highway Patrol also towed a black Volkswagen sedan and a white Honda Prelude, both with Vermont tags, from the apartment complex Tuesday morning, but authorities would not say how they might be connected to the case.

The investigation is ongoing, authorities said, and other people are also being questioned in the case.

Brady has long criminal history

Brady, who is from Randolph, Vt., was also arrested on an outstanding warrant for a felony absconder charge in Vermont, where he served nearly three years in prison on both state and federal convictions.

According to Vermont corrections officials, he was released from prison in June and has been wanted on a probation violation since October, when he was accused of deer poaching.

In August 2008, Brady was arrested on federal charges after he stole 209 sticks of dynamite from a rock quarry in Bethel, Vt. In July 2009, authorities said, he was involved in a violent home invasion in South Royalton, Vt., where the victim, Janet Babcock, suffered a severe brain injury and said she feared for her life as he cut her five times with a knife.

Vermont authorities also connected Brady and three other men to more than 100 burglaries in 2009 but he was only charged in four. Investigators said he and one of his accomplices fled to Mexico and were then extradited.

Ultimately, Brady pleaded guilty to numerous federal and state charges and served 33 months in prison, from September 2009 until June.

The prosecutor in the case agreed to the plea, she said, because he seemed genuine about getting his life back on track.

Babcock, whom Brady apologized to in court, however, testified at his sentencing hearing that she was worried that he might re-offend.

Other witnesses said that he suffered from mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and had become an abuser of drugs and alcohol after his father was killed in 2002 while trying to protect a family member in a domestic violence altercation.

The wife of one of Brady's friends who was also convicted in the home invasion, said Brady never got over his father's murder and that, as a result, had erratic mood swings.

"He would be nice one minute and a complete jerk the next," the woman, who did not want to be identified, said.

Potts ready to get back to work

Potts was listed in fair condition at Duke University Hospital Tuesday afternoon, and friends said he is recovering -- even laughing and joking with visitors.

"He was up talking. He said he had been up walking, and he's doing very well. He's ready to get back to work," said Ollie Jeffers, president of the Durham chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has honored Potts twice for his involvement with the group as well as his efforts to get drunken drivers off the road.

"He is one of our finest," she said. "He is very passionate about what he does."

Potts joined the Highway Patrol in 2001 and is assigned to the Durham district office.

Prior to that, he worked in the K-9 division of the Durham County Sheriff's Office, and before that, had a professional baseball career with the Macon Braves in Atlanta and then later with the Durham Bulls.

"He was a great teammate," said Potts' former pitching coach Matt West. "I'm sure the people who wear the other uniform Mike proudly wears now would call him a great teammate and a great team player."

"He's just a down-home humble person," Durham Sheriff Mike Andrews said. "He's a quiet individual who just wants to do his job and do it to the best of his ability."

Friends also describe him as a dedicated father and husband to his three children and wife, who were by his side Tuesday.

"We ask that you would keep Trooper Potts and his family in your prayers," Lt. Col. Gary Bell, acting commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who visited with Potts' family Monday night after his State of the State address, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, offering his prayers and support and said that the shooting "is a reminder of constant dangers facing our public safety officials every day in the line of duty."

Shanahan echoed similar comments Tuesday.

"Nothing strikes more deeply at the heart of a person who wears a badge than to know that one of their fellow officers has been harmed in this way," he said. "I can't imagine any more egregious conduct by a human being. This was unprovoked."