SC trooper out of hospital, suspect faces attempted murder, York prosecutor says

S.C. Highway patrol officer Paul Wise was released from a hospital Monday morning after body armor stopped the bullet that struck him, officials said.

Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Monday that he had been briefed by State Law Enforcement Division agents investigating the shooting. Brackett said SLED has received warrants against Willie Bernard Wright, 27, charging him with attempted murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, failure to stop for a blue light, and possession of a weapon by a person convicted of a crime of violence.

“SLED is handling the investigation and our office will prosecute this case,” Brackett said. “We are very relieved that trooper Wise was not more seriously injured. It could have been much worse. We are grateful for body armor in this incident.”

Wright, who also was shot during the incident, has a Gaffney address, according to law enforcement officials. He has a criminal record in York County that includes 2013 convictions for attempted murder and attempted armed robbery, according to Brackett and South Carolina corrections department officials.

Wright was released from a South Carolina prison in August 2018, S.C. Department of Corrections officials said. Wright was on community supervision after he served 85 percent of his sentence, said Pete O’Boyle, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon services.

Wright now is considered a fugitive by law enforcement because arrest warrants against him have been issued, Brackett said.

However, Wright will have to be extradited back to South Carolina to face the charges, Brackett said. Wright was taken to a Charlotte hospital after the shooting.

He is being guarded by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers, Berry said.

Sunday’s incident started around 7:45 p.m. Sunday near Mt. Gallant Road outside of Rock Hill, officials said. Wise attempted to stop Wright, who was driving a 2009 BMW, for an alleged safety belt violation, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. Wright fled and Wise began a pursuit, officials said.

Wright drove south on Mount Gallant Road then turned on to India Hook Road before crashing, officials said.

“The suspect exited the vehicle and began firing at the trooper’s vehicle,” public safety officials said in a written release. “The trooper returned fire, striking the suspect.”

SLED investigators have dashcam video from the incident from Wise’s trooper vehicle, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.

Wise, a trooper since 2016, is recovering after being struck in the torso area, which was protected by the body armor, officials said. The bullet went through the windshield before striking Wise, Brackett said.

“This is a stark reminder that these officers put their lives on the line to ensure public safety every day and every night,” Brackett said.

S.C. Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said the body armor saved Wise’s life.

“This job is always a risk, a sacrifice,” Smith said. “They (troopers) put their lives in peril to keep everybody safe.”

Wise was released from Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill Monday morning, public safety officials said.

Wright’s injuries are not considered life-threatening, officials said. It remains unclear when Wright will be released from the hospital and taken into custody by North Carolina authorities.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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