Arrests in western NC may be connected to Wake County deputy's death

Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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Two law enforcement sources in Wake County told ABC11 that it appeared two men arrested on Interstate 40 in western North Carolina earlier Tuesday are connected to the killing of Wake County deputy Ned Byrd.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Two law enforcement sources in Wake County told ABC11 that it appeared two men arrested on Interstate 40 in western North Carolina earlier Tuesday are connected to the killing of Wake County deputy Ned Byrd.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Wake County Sheriff's Office said the arrests in Burke County were not connected to the case.

"These individuals have been arrested on federal detainers unrelated to the Byrd homicide. There was no chase as has been previously reported," said Wake County Chief Legal Advisor Rick Brown. "The investigation is at a sensitive point. Rumors and false information by the media to get the story out first hampers this investigation. We continue to ask for the public's assistance in identifying the person or persons responsible for this homicide."

But on police scanner traffic from Burke County--more than 200 miles away-- a call is heard saying: "SBI is requesting an assist in stopping a suspect, actually two suspect vehicles on the Wake deputy."

The Wake County Sheriff's Office remained tight-lipped Tuesday night but investigators continued to work the scene of the crime at Battle Bridge Road, near Auburn Knightdale Road.

Sources also told ABC11 that the search for answers led to the Neuse River as investigators looked for a murder weapon. ABC11 asked authorities whether they had found anything of note in the river or whether they would resume searching Wednesday but had not heard back late Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, a truck and camping trailer were taken from Byrd's home a few days after his death in what the Wake County Sheriff's office said was a "civil dispute."

According to a Wake County Sheriff's Office incident report, Byrd's 2019 Toyota Tacoma and 2020 Flyer camping trailer were both taken sometime Saturday night into Sunday morning (Aug 13-14).

That happened just over 48 hours after someone shot Byrd multiple times while he was on duty.

Brown said the missing truck and camper were "taken without permission" in an ongoing civil dispute. He said the items have since been recovered.

SEE ALSO: $100K reward offered for information about who killed Wake County deputy Ned Byrd

A manhunt for the killer remains ongoing, but investigators have not released many details about who could be responsible.

Dr. Roy Taylor, a law enforcement expert who once ran for sheriff, told ABC11 that he wondered why Byrd didn't put out a call on the radio that he was going to check on a car. He also said it would have been helpful had the dash camera been better quality.

"It's just an unfortunate incident. It was out in a rural part of the county where there are not a lot of video cameras, not a lot of witnesses, he most likely laid on the ground dead for a couple of hours," Taylor said. "We can see just how vital a good dash camera would've been in this investigation and how quickly they might have been able to resolve it had the camera been functioning clear as the technology allows today."

Taylor said he knows law enforcement is making every effort to bring this case to a successful conclusion.

"I hope it's the best possible contrasted video that they can achieve and there's a lot of enhancements that can be done," Taylor said. "There are investigative methods that are available to law enforcements during critical incidents like this through cell phone companies. So we can track every cell phone connected to the tower at the time of this incident. Usually, you want to get these things wrapped up in the first 48 hours but sometimes investigative leads take a while to run down."

Tributes to Byrd were visible across the community.

In the East Five Points community where Deputy Byrd lived along East Whitaker Mill Road, blue ribbons are tied to utility poles. Neighbors said they will miss seeing his squad car parked out front of his home because it provided them with a sense of comfort.

"This has been a wonderful way to honor him to have the blue ribbons tied around these poles around the neighborhood. Really, as you drive by you can't help but think about him and send a prayer up for his service and wish him well on the next phase of his being," said neighbor Wanda Urbanska. "He was a friendly presence on this street. Out in his yard a lot. We all took comfort in having him live across the street from us. It was nice to see the sheriff's car out there. It just feels like a real loss for him personally, neighborhood, family and sheriff's department."

And at a bar in the Five Points area in Raleigh, they reserved a seat for him and put out a drink and a photo of the deputy in his honor.

On Monday, Wake County Sheriff's Office released images of a white truck that may be connected to the case. The blurry black and white images show a truck thought to be a Chevrolet Colorado or a GMC Canyon. It was seen on Battle Bridge Road, near Auburn Knightdale Road where Byrd was killed.

Wake County Sheriff's Office

Click here for a closer look at the above image (.pdf opens in new window)

James Johnson, a retired New York police officer now living in the Triangle, worked in narcotics and the anti-gang unit. He said it's not surprising that the officers are going through the scene as closely as they are.

"Even finding the weapon--even as they extract the rounds, every gun has a certain rifling," Johnson said. "So when it flies out, it spins a certain way so they identified a weapon through that."

He said investigators need to canvass the area for shell casings, anyone who may have heard shots, cameras, etc. And he added that it's important to keep the scene from being contaminated.

READ MORE: 'Never seen anything like this': Wake sheriff candidates talk grief, solutions after deputy killed

"One may think that they didn't find enough evidence but it's better, I would say. They want to be as thorough as possible, they're looking for shells, they're looking for rounds--anything," Johnson said. "It is imperative we find who did this, I'm so sick to my stomach about the officers being killed, my heart goes out to their families. It is imperative we catch this person because we want to show people they can't get away with this."

Baker mentioned getting help from the FBI and SBI.

They're also working to figure out a timeline with Byrd's latest locations and calls.

Baker has not confirmed whether they are looking for more than one suspect.

But he did say the department is working to piece things together and they feel this loss as a family.

"Sometimes it happens in a day or so, sometimes it doesn't. But we're on it and we're going to be on it until that day comes," Baker said. "It's tough, but we're going to make and he's going to see us through. No questions about that. But I know that in the end, we'll get what we need to get who we're looking for."