YADKIN COUNTY, N.C. -- The man suspected in a pursuit and crash that killed a trooper in Yadkin County Tuesday morning has been arrested. He made his first court appearance Wednesday morning and received no bond.
Officials announced that 22-year-old Dakota Kape Whitt, of Elkin, was arrested around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday after a tip led to a traffic stop. He faces charges of second-degree murder, flee to elude arrest in a motor vehicle, driving with a revoked license, resisting public officer and two counts of failure to appear.
The murder charge is because of malice used during reckless driving causing a death, Highway Patrol said.
He was taken to the Wilkes County Detention Center in Wilkesboro.
There were three people in the vehicle at the time of the chase. The owner of the vehicle is not facing any charges.
The deceased trooper has been identified as Samuel Newton Bullard, of Wilkes County. He was a three-year veteran assigned to Surry County.
The crash happened around 11:30 p.m. Monday after a pursuit on Interstate 77 southbound at mile marker 82 near N.C. 67. The chase started with a license check in the State Road community of Surry County.
During the chase, Trooper P.E. Ellis noticed he did not see Bullard's patrol car behind him. When his attempt at contacting Bullard failed, Ellis turned around and found the patrol car engulfed in flames.
Authorities have since identified the owner of the vehicle involved in the pursuit as Cheyenne Harrison.
Trooper Bullard attended Wilkes Community College from August 2011 through May 2013. Joe Exposito, the lead instructor for the school's criminal justice program, released a statement on his death Wednesday morning:
“Samuel was a graduate of our criminal justice program and was a great man. He didn’t let anything stop him from reaching his goal of becoming a member of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol," Exposito said. "I will remember him as a very kind, respectful man, who never complained and always worked hard to accomplish his goals. He will be missed by anybody who ever met him."
The viewing service for Bullard will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the John A. Walker Center in Wilkesboro on Friday. The funeral will take place at 1 p.m. The viewing and funeral are not open to the public.
The procession will then go to Macedonia Baptist Church in Ronda for Bullard’s burial. Highway Patrol encourages those who want to watch the procession route to find safe places along U.S. 421 between Wilkesboro and Ronda.