Man who allegedly stole SUV and shot at police appears in court

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HICKORY —

James Smith tried to hide from Channel 9’s camera Wednesday as the magistrate read the list of charges he faces.

Earlier, Smith could be heard in the back of a police cruiser after investigators say he led them on a nine hour manhunt.

“I need an ambulance. I need an ambulance. They beat me up. I need an ambulance. I got shot at,” Smith yelled in the back of the police car.

Smith was checked out by paramedics and was later taken away to jail.

Investigators said the 34-year-old stole an SUV from a parking lot Tuesday night. When officers spotted him, he took off and crashed into the woods.

Police said he fired three times at officers. Neighbor Ed Freeze heard three shots from his home.

“That scared us all. I was more worried about the police than the person out there. Because they said the guy had a gun,” Freeze said.

Police believe Smith got help stealing the SUV. They have charged Erin Shell with aiding and abetting, but she denies being involved.

“It’s all not what it seems to be trust me,” Smith said.

Police made automated calls twice during the night alerting neighbors in a one-mile square area about the manhunt. They also placed Hickory High School under a soft lockdown this morning. They did not want to take a chance by going in the woods at night.

“We were confident about our perimeter, so we just waited him out,” said Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins.

Shortly after sunrise police arrested Smith in Laurie Childres’ backyard after she spotted him with a stick and called 911. She said police were there in less than a minute.

“He started to flee with all of them around and they pounced on him,” she said.

Childres said she was most thankful for the calls from police that told her to stay inside her home during that manhunt.