COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Prosecutors have identified the man accused of fatally shooting a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper during a traffic stop in Columbus County early Wednesday morning.
According to officials, Raheem Davis, 20, of Chadbourn has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Trooper Kevin Conner.
First Sgt. Michael Baker with the State Highway Patrol said Conner was shot at approximately 12:15 a.m. while conducting a traffic stop for a speeding violation on U.S. 701 near Sellers Town Road in Columbus County. As Conner approached the vehicle, the suspect fired several shots, striking the trooper.
Conner died after being taken to a local hospital.
“At that time, the driver fled the scene and drove into Fair Bluff," Baker said in a media briefing. "The Fair Bluff Police Department attempted to stop the vehicle and a chase ensued. The driver of that white GMC became disabled on the railroad tracks in Fair Bluff off of Rogers Street. A foot pursuit ensued and he was apprehended by authorities after an extensive search.”
Davis made his first appearance in a Columbus County courtroom Wednesday afternoon, flanked by nine officers, some wearing bulletproof vests.
During the appearance, Davis was brief while answering questions from the judge, limiting his answers to “yes” and “yes, sir.”
The judge ordered that Davis be held under no bond. He faces the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Following the court appearance, District Attorney Jon David said “this was cold-blooded, first-degree murder” and that Trooper Conner, just 15 hours prior, was “patrolling the streets of Columbus County, but now he’s dead.”
Conner’s funeral services are scheduled for Sunday with visitation at South Columbus High School from 1-4 p.m. The funeral is scheduled after visitation.
David said Davis was driving a stolen pickup truck and speeding in the opposite direction on U.S. 701 prior to being pulled over by Conner in front of a nearby convenience store. David said the deadly shooting was caught on dashcam video and by the store’s surveillance system.
According to David, Conner was “blissfully unaware” as he walked up to the truck and asked Davis why he was speeding, at which point Davis allegedly started firing a gun without saying anything. Conner was struck twice.
Hilton Cox lives just down the road from where the shooting occurred and was outside his home smoking a cigarette when he heard four or five gunshots ring out.
“When I heard the gunshots, I heard tires squeal and saw the cop car still sitting there with blue lights going," Cox said. "I told my wife something didn’t seem right.” Cox said he jumped in his vehicle and drove down to Conner’s patrol car where he found the trooper lying on the highway in front of the car.
“I immediately called 911 and started talking to him, checking his vitals. He had a pulse. He was breathing and he still had a heartbeat and was gasping for air,” Cox explained. “I held onto him until the EMTs showed up.”
Other troopers responded to the scene and watched the dashcam video to identify Davis, who they found minutes later in the same truck in Fair Bluff.
After Davis' truck stalled on some railroad tracks on Rogers Street, he fled on foot and was later found hiding in a wooded area behind the tracks.
David said the gun used in the shooting has not been found yet.
David and Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher have requested the SBI investigate the incident.
According to online records, Davis was out on probation after serving about three months in prison after he was convicted last year of firing gunshots into a couple’s SUV as they were driving through Chadbourn on their way to Myrtle Beach, SC in 2015.
Conner was an 11-year veteran of the N.C. State Highway Patrol and was assigned to Troop B out of Columbus County.
“The Highway Patrol family is mourning the loss of a hero and will forever be changed by the tragic events that have occurred”, said Colonel Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “We ask everyone to please keep Trooper Conner’s family and all who knew him in your thoughts and prayers.”
A law enforcement procession took place Wednesday afternoon to honor Cooper - it starts around the 4:30 mark in this video.
Governor Roy Cooper, in a phone interview Wednesday morning, said Conner’s death was a tragic reminder of the dangers law enforcement officers face every day.
“This is such a tragic and senseless act of violence against one of our fine Highway Patrol troopers. Trooper Conner served his community and our state well and it just shows you the danger and risk that our law enforcement officers take every day when they step out to protect us and keep us safe,” Cooper said. “I know the entire Highway Patrol and law enforcement community…all are mourning today, as are North Carolinians across the state.”
Cooper said he has ordered that flags at all state buildings be flown at half-staff to honor Trooper Conner’s sacrifice and his life.