A state Highway Patrol trooper was shot and killed Tuesday night during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 near here, authorities said.
Lt. Everett Clendenin, public information officer for the patrol, said in a news release that the trooper had stopped a vehicle in the eastbound lanes of I-40 near exit 31 at around 10:20 p.m.
Patrol First Sgt. S.D. Greene confirmed early Wednesday morning that Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr., 24, was shot and died after he was taken to Mission Hospitals in Asheville. Greene said a passerby called to report that Blanton had been shot.
Blanton, who grew up in Sylva, was a two-year veteran of the patrol. He was married and had one child.
Blanton is the 59th trooper to die in the line of duty since the patrol was formed in 1929, and the first to be killed since 1997.
Lt. A.J. Dickey, who is based with the Highway Patrol in Asheville, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that Blanton stopped the eastbound vehicle for a traffic violation, but it's unknown what the violation was. Blanton got the driver out of the vehicle and an altercation followed. Dickey said the man shot Blanton twice, once in the shoulder and another bullet grazed his wrist.
Dickey said it was not clear whose gun was used to shoot the trooper, who was wearing a bulletproof vest.
The newspaper reported that after Blanton was shot, the man fled in his vehicle and immediately left I-40 at exit 31. He turned left on N.C. 215, where Haywood County sheriff's deputies and Canton police officers located him a short distance up the road, Dickey said. He was taken to the Haywood County jail.
Clendenin said the unidentified suspect was from Florida and was driving to Tennessee. No one at the jail could be reached for comment early Wednesday morning.