RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The suspects in the shooting of a North Carolina police officer were wanted fugitives accused of recently stealing a vehicle in Pennsylvania. Both had been released from jail while facing charges, even though one of them was on parole.
Michael Edgerton, now dead, and Renee Phillips, now under arrest, were declared fugitives a month ago after failing to appear at a Bucks County, Pa., court hearing on their charges, records show. They had both been arrested in August and jailed with bail set at $40,000. Court officials say a judge later eliminated their bail requirement and told the two to live in recovery houses.
Edgerton was allowed to go free in Bucks County on Aug. 23, five days after authorities in nearby Delaware County had issued an arrest warrant because the new charges violated his parole.
Parole supervisor Chris Pawlowski said the warrant was placed into law enforcement databases. Delaware County officials would have preferred to keep him in custody because of the violation, and said they weren’t notified that he was being freed.
“We have no knowledge that he was released from Bucks County,” Pawlowski said.
The district attorney in Bucks County did not return a call seeking comment.
Authorities now believe Edgerton and Phillips, both of Southampton, Pa., were the ones responsible for shooting Roanoke Rapids police officer John Taylor during a traffic stop on Interstate 95 near the Virginia line. Taylor, 31, is in critical condition at a North Carolina hospital.
Investigators hunted Edgerton and Phillips for about 24 hours after the shooting. They eventually found the pair Thursday in a wooded area near where the officer had been shot and their car abandoned. Phillips was arrested and charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a stolen firearm and accessory after the fact. Officers found Edgerton dead after they say he turned the gun on himself.
“We feel like we’ve brought safety back to our neighborhood here,” said Police Chief Jeff Hinton.
Authorities believe Edgerton and Phillips were in a vehicle that had been stolen in Pennsylvania. Taylor pulled them over Wednesday afternoon for following too closely to another vehicle, a minor traffic violation. Hinton said dashboard video shows Taylor was cautious as he walked to the vehicle and the shots were fired a few seconds later.
Court records show that both Edgerton and Phillips had faced a variety of criminal charges in Pennsylvania. He was sentenced to at least nine months in prison after negotiating a guilty plea to an access device fraud charge in May 2009.
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