At approximately 1509 on 5-22-2020, Sgt. Albert, who was flying as a WFFD volunteer TFO, and I were on the ground at Triangle North Executive Airport (LHZ) in Louisburg, NC. We heard a shooting call dispatched for the Wake Forest Police Department (WFPD) at the intersection of Burlington Mills Road and Capital Blvd.
We departed LHZ and made it to the call location area at 1513 where we began an aerial search until 1527 for the bright blue car alleged to be the subject vehicle. At 1527 we extended the search area to look for the car allegedly proceeding towards Nash county. We immediately proceeded to Rt 401 and to I-540.
Sgt. Albert continued to communicate with WFPD via his CAD system over WiFi from the airplane. It was our primary source of information with WFPD.
We proceeded eastbound on I-540, and several miles before the intersection of US 64, TFO Albert, using the gyro-stabilized binoculars, spotted a neon blue sedan at 1535 traveling at a high rate of speed and weaving in and out of traffic.
Sgt. Albert identified the car as fitting the profile of a fleeing subject and headed in the anticipated direction. He was unable to identify the vehicle’s make from 2,000 feet given the turbulence and erratic driving of the vehicle.
The vehicle was darting in and out of traffic and passing other vehicles at a high rate of speed as it left the Raleigh area. The vehicle was headed in the direction of the registered owner of the shooter’s registered vehicle. (Sgt. Albert used Google maps while over the incident location and found the suggested travel direction for the now identified suspect to return his residence.) The vehicle matching the neon blue sedan description was traveling on the roads that would have taken the suspect back to the registered address.
We followed the vehicle and observed it traveling at a high rate of speed as it left the Raleigh area. The vehicle finally slowed down to a more average travel speed as we approached Rocky Mount. We maintained surveillance.
During this phase of the flight, you will notice we switched to the right side of the highway when I took over the primary responsibility of observing the vehicle and flying as TFO Albert dealt with establishing Viper radio communication. I was able to maintain pacing with the vehicle in slower flight with 20 degrees of flaps.
Sgt. Albert made contact with law enforcement on Viper channel SW Call to request local law enforcement assistance in identifying the vehicle and driver. We were subsequently moved to a different Viper channel. Nash County passed us off to Wilson law enforcement, and then to Pitt county deputies who did an exceptional job working with us as the aviation unit.
Our surveillance of the vehicle took us from Wake county, across a bit of Franklin, Nash, Wilson, part of Edgecombe, and then finally into Pitt county.
During our time over Wilson County, the Sheriff’s office had called Wake Forest Police dispatch and received the information on the vehicle in question. The telephone number for Sgt. Godfrey (WFPD on duty involved in the incident) was given to the ground units via the radio by Sgt. Albert.
The pursuit and surveillance became challenging as the car left US 64 and began to travel on back roads and passed through small towns. We could see the vehicle, but the slower speeds meant we had to fly more 360 degree circles to get back behind the car. The vehicle passed several vehicles on double-yellows or non-passing zones, which continued to fit the profile of the vehicle we were looking for.
We were able to keep eyes on the vehicle nearly all the time except when it passed behind some trees on the back roads. The vehicle driver had no idea we were following him since his driving significantly slowed down and was much less erratic as the vehicle neared its final destination.
Sgt. Albert located a ground unit that was several miles behind the possible suspect vehicle. He was able to give directions and informed them of the suspect vehicle’s location.
At 1626 the vehicle arrived a mobile home, drove around it on the grass and then backed up tightly against the back of the mobile home.
At the same time, the deputies that Sgt. Albert was communicating with arrived on the scene.
Wake Forest Police Department staff involved in the call on the ground stated they felt the flight was very successful since we were able to track and rule out a suspicious vehicle appearing to flee the area in a suspicious manner fitting the profile of a fleeing suspect.
After Pitt County Deputies made contact, we stayed in radio contact and conducted a circling climb up to cooler air. We broke off our contact with Pitt Deputies and departed the area to return to our base at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
PIC – Steve Rhode
TFO – Andrew Albert