BURKE COUNTY, N.C. - A trail of violence led to the murder of a dedicated officer and his dog Wednesday afternoon.
Jason Crisp, a U.S. Forest Service officer, died while trying to track down murder suspect Troy Whisnant in Burke County.
The Burke County sheriff said Thursday that the gunman ambushed the officer and his service dog after killing his parents days earlier.
The day had started with the investigation of a double homicide.
At about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, deputies were called for a welfare check at a home on Fish Hatchery Lane.
They found Levi and Rhonda Whisnant, Troy Whisnant's father and stepmother, dead inside. Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant said authorities think Whisnant killed his parents days earlier and was living in their house.
Deputies started looking for Whisnant and said he possibly stole two cars, including a blue wrecker that he crashed in the woods nearby.
Then, a homeowner called deputies and said a man was hiding in his shed on the same street.
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Officers rushed to the home and about 10 minutes later deputies said Troy Whisnant shot and killed Crisp and his service dog.
The State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the two separate shootings in Burke County.
Officers are still in shock after Crisp was ambushed and killed in the line of duty by a double-murder suspect.
Five hours after the shooting, fellow officers with the U.S. Forest Service followed the ambulance carrying the body of Crisp and his dog, Maros, down the road where the two had been shot and killed.
Channel 9 was a quarter-mile away when the shots rang out along Fish Hatchery Road and Chopper 9 flew over the chaotic scene near the home where the shooter had been hiding.
Sheriff Steve Whisnant radioed Chopper 9 for help looking for the shooter and the downed officer.
On the ground below, Burke County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rick Hasson was feet away from the gunfire and had spoken to Crisp minutes earlier when he heard the call: “Officer down.”
"It sends a bad chill,” he said. “It's no good all the way around. All I heard was one shot.”
Whisnant was on the run.
Eddie McDaniels spotted Whisnant running from the shed behind his home and into the woods Wednesday afternoon and alerted police.
"There's a window you can see and I guess he saw me coming out," McDaniels said. "I was taking out some trash and I heard the door slam and he come running out the building and took off that way. I called 911 and they were here in about three minutes."
Crisp started tracking Whisnant with his dog and 10 minutes later he was shot and killed around 2:55 p.m.
Deputies from across the foothills and the mountains came to Burke County to help in the manhunt.
Shortly before 4:45 p.m. Wednesday there were more shots fired. The sheriff said that at 4:41 p.m., officers had shot and killed Whisnant.
The sheriff said Whisnant was armed at the time, taking the gun belonging to Crisp and arming himself during an earlier break-in.
Autopsies for all four people are scheduled for Thursday.
Suspect's criminal history
Channel 9 learned this isn’t the first time Whisnant has killed someone. He was arrested in 1996 in connection with another homicide in Burke County.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1997.
He was sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.
He was given credit for the 14 months he spent in prison before the sentencing and was incarcerated for another year.
Also, Channel 9 was there in 2002, when police arrested Whisnant on robbery charges.
He broke into a home when the homeowner showed up and held a gun on Whisnant until officers arrived.
On Thursday, Sheriff Whisenant said authorities believed Whisnant had a substance abuse problem.
When asked if Whisnant should have still been behind bars when the crimes took place, the sheriff said, "If we would've had anything to say (about it), he wouldn't have been on the street (in the first place)."
The law enforcement community is mourning Crisp, who was a husband and father, and who lost his life protecting others.
The local Nebo office where Crisp was stationed is closed Thursday, as his colleagues and friends grieve.
They were too shaken up to speak and the office’s United States flag remains at half-staff. A spokeswoman said there are about 20 officers at the station and many grew up with Crisp in the area.
She did not know when the office will reopen.
Crisp was a decorated officer who spent 10 years with the U.S Forestry Division.
His dog Maros was always by his side and the two have rescued children from the woods.
Last year, they helped crews as they battled a massive wildfire in Burke County.
Crisp was using his highly-trained dog to track down Whisnant as he was hiding in the woods.
Maros found Whisnant who was waiting in ambush where he shot and killed Crisp and the dog and stole Crisp's gun.
Neighbors hope it's not Crisp's tragic end and that he's remembered by his heroic actions every day that made the community better and safer.