CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Suspects in a double shooting Wednesday morning in Charlotte led authorities on a chase through Catawba County that ended when officers, fearing for their safety, shot a suspect several times, officials said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney said it all started when police saw a vehicle that matched the description of a truck that was suspected of being involved in shootings overnight.
Those overnight shootings were in the Steele Creek and Independence Boulevard areas.
When police tried to pull the truck over, the driver took off with his passenger and they were able to get away. A third suspect was arrested at the scene, police said.
A witness told reporter Tina Terry he saw a red truck barreling down East W.T. Harris Boulevard. He said several people with guns jumped out, and the truck eventually crashed and caught fire.
Shots were fired, which left two people injured, at 9 a.m. on East W.T. Harris Boulevard at Campbell Burn Court.
Putney said police are not sure if the truck caught fire from the crash or if it was set on fire.
Around the same time, two men heading to work saw people standing in the middle of the street with a shotgun and a pistol.
"Every car that didn't stop, they was shooting. So when we came, I could tell something was getting ready to happen. The guy with the shotgun shot me in the finger," Dwight Best said.
The two suspects then carjacked a truck and police began their pursuit, officials said. CMPD called in its helicopter to help with the chase.
CMPD officers said they chased the suspects about 40 miles to Highway 16 and Buffalo Shoals Road, in Catawba County, until the suspects' truck hit a pole.
When CMPD officers tried to arrest the two suspects, the passenger, Rodolfo Joel Ulloa-Paz, 29, took out a shotgun and refused to drop it, officials said.
The officers who were threatened shot Ulloa-Paz several times, according to CMPD.
A CMPD officer was checked at the scene, but officials said later he was not hit by the gunfire.
Ulloa-Paz was taken to Catawba Regional Hospital and airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition.
Upon Ulloa-Paz’s release, he will be charged two counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm into an occupied conveyance in operation, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony flee to elude.
The other suspects, Alan Israel Chavez-Cruz, 22, and Erik Lopez, 19, were arrested and taken to police headquarters where they were interviewed by detectives.
Chavez-Cruz was charged with two counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm into an occupied conveyance in operation, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony flee to elude.
Lopez was occupying the original suspect vehicle before the pursuit and was charged with possession of weapon of mass destruction. He was not involved in the pursuit.
The members of CMPD that were involved in the shooting were Sgt. Jason Dority, Officer Ronald Elfrard and Officer Robert Preston. They were placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure with any officer-involved shooting.
"I can tell you all of the citizens watching this broadcast that we had some really heroic officers who stood in the line of fire (Wednesday)," CMPD Dep. Chief Jeff Estes said.
The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the investigation.
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