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York suspect accused of firing ‘cop-killer’ bullet at trooper, now in NC jail

The South Carolina man accused of shooting a highway patrol trooper during a York County traffic stop used “cop-killer ammunition,” prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

Willie Bernard Wright, 27, was arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers late Monday on a fugitive warrant, according to Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office jail records.

Wright had been taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for his injuries late Sunday after he was shot by Trooper Paul Wise following a chase south of Lake Wylie, officials said. The chase followed an attempted traffic stop, officials say.

Wright was shot in the arm during the confrontation, after he fired the first shot, Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting said during a court hearing Tuesday in North Carolina.

Wright fired as many as 12 shots from an allegedly stolen automatic pistol with a 20-bullet clip Sunday night following the chase, Bunting told Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Roy Wiggins during the hearing.

Three of the shots went through the trooper’s car windshield, including one that hit Wise in the chest, Bunting said. The bullets are a special ammunition that travels twice as fast as regular bullets, he said.

“If that bullet had not gone through the windshield first, it is likely the trooper would have been killed,” Bunting said. “This is called cop killer ammunition.”

Refused extradition

In court Tuesday, Wright refused to waive extradition back to South Carolina to face pending charges.

State Law Enforcement Division agents have pending arrest warrants against Wright from the trooper shooting, 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 felon convicted of a violent crime, prosecutors said.

Wright also has a criminal record in York County that includes 2013 convictions for attempted murder and attempted armed robbery.

Wright said nothing in court except to agree with his lawyers, a Charlotte public defender and Todd Rutherford of Columbia, that he did not want to waive extradition.

Wright had a sling on one arm and was rolled into court in a wheelchair.

Wright lives in Gaffney but previously lived in York County in Fort Mill, court records show.

Wright had been booked late Monday after being released from a Charlotte hospital and was given a $500,000 bond. Bunting said in court that half a million dollars was not nearly enough to keep the public safe from a man charged with shooting a state trooper.

“This defendant spent almost six years in prison for another attempted murder before attempting to kill a South Carolina law enforcement officer,” Bunting said in court. “No condition of bond could ensure the safety of the public or of law enforcement. He is an absolute danger to the community. We cannot put law enforcement in a position of trying to apprehend this defendant again.”

Bunting asked for a $1 million bond, but said that amount would not keep the public or law enforcement officers safe.

Wright’s lawyers said if given a reasonable bond of $75,000, Wright would show up for court to face the charges in South Carolina.

The shooting

Sunday’s incident started around 7:45 p.m. 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 followed, officials said.

Wright drove south on Mount Gallant Road then turned onto India Hook Road before crashing. Wright then shot Wise as Wise sat in his patrol car, Bunting said.

Wiggins said based on Wright’s previous record and the current charges, he was setting Wright’s bond at $1 million.

Rutherford, Wright’s lawyer, said after court he has not yet seen the evidence in the case, including the ammunition that prosecutors described as “cop-killer” bullets.

“I heard that cop-killer phrase for the first time today,” Rutherford said. “I haven’t had the chance yet to review the evidence.”

Law enforcement officials said investigators have trooper dashcam video that shows the incident.

Rutherford said he has not seen the video.

“At this point my client maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court,” Rutherford said.

Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor who is the top prosecutor in York County, attended the hearing Tuesday in Charlotte but did not address the court.

“What happened to Trooper Wise was a scary situation and a reminder of the very real dangers that law enforcement faces,” Brackett said.

Brackett said he was made aware on Tuesday of the so-called “cop-killer ammunition” used in the shooting.

Wright is barred under South Carolina and federal law from possessing a gun or ammunition because of his criminal felony convictions, Brackett said.

Extradition will require governors of South Carolina and North Carolina to force Wright to be returned to South Carolina to face criminal charges, Brackett said.

That process could take weeks.

However, Brackett said while Wright has a legal right to fight extradition, it is almost certain that Wright will be brought back to South Carolina.

“It is almost unheard of that someone charged with these offenses would not be extradited,” Brackett said.

Wright faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted, because of his previous violent crime convictions, Brackett said.

Wise is on administrative leave as the shootings are investigated.

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