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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

Authorities say Wednesday's officer-involved shooting in Wilmington's Northside unrelated to other recent violence

Bethanie Simms
Near the incident at Walnut and McRae.

The series of events leading up to the shooting included suspicious activity at the Wilmington International Airport, an aborted traffic stop in downtown Wilmington, and — apparently — an attempt by the suspect to ram a Sheriff's deputy with his car.

Downtown Northside residents returned home this evening to a large law-enforcement presence and two sizeable areas roped off by police. The first location was on Fourth between Walnut and Chestnut, the second on McRae from Walnut to Chestnut.

Police department officials reported that at approximately 5:01 p.m., Wilmington Police Department officers attempted to perform a traffic stop on the 33-year-old white male driving a vehicle for a minor infraction.

The driver failed to yield to the police officer and, because of high traffic, the officers decided not to pursue the suspect. But, moments later, the suspect got behind WPD officers and followed them — seemingly unusual behavior for a suspect who had just escaped a traffic stop.

Traveling into Wilmington's Northside neighborhood, the two vehicles then came upon a New Hanover County Sheriff's Office (NHCSO) deputy on foot. The deputy was conducting civil duties in an unrelated matter, according to law enforcement. The suspect veered across the road and attempted to hit the on-foot deputy with his vehicle.

WPD officers and NHCSO deputies then opened fire and hit the suspect at least once. The vehicle fled east on Grace Street from Fourth toward McRae Street, where the suspect collided with a WPD vehicle.

The suspect was arrested and transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery.

Police officials learned that earlier in the afternoon, Wilmington International Airport personnel had approached the suspect and asked him to leave when he attempted to enter a secured area; the suspect's motives in this incident are still unclear.

Both WPD Chief Donny Williams and Sheriff Ed McMahon were on the scene; the NHCSO and the WPD clarified this incident is unrelated to the recent gang shootings — a rash of violence that began with a double-homicide at the house of a top Tru Colors executive, and continued with additional shootings at 5th and Grace in downtown Wilmington, and a drive-by on South 13th Street, where two innocent bystanders were shot, one fatally.

SBI will investigate the officer-involved shooting at the request of McMahon, Williams, and District Attorney Ben David; N.C. Highway Patrol will investigate the vehicle collision. Both moves are common practice in incidents of this nature.

Bethanie is a freelance writer for WHQR. She was the 2021-2022 UNCW News Fellow during the pursuit of her M.A. in English. She holds a B.A. in Political Studies with a focus on Constitutional Law. Originally from California and Colorado, she is a Marine Corps Military Police Reserve officer and an Afghanistan War Veteran. Her civilian professional background includes corporate finance and legal litigation.