Charges filed in police officer’s shooting

Published 10:51 am Friday, November 19, 2010

ROANOKE RAPIDS – The two suspects involved in the Wednesday afternoon shooting of Roanoke Rapids Police Officer John Taylor were on the run from Pennsylvania where they faced charges.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Associated Press reports Michael Eugene Edgerton, now dead, and Renee Michele Phillips, now under arrest, were declared fugitives a month ago, accused of stealing a vehicle in Bucks County, Pa. Both had been released from jail while facing charges, even though one of them was on parole. The duo failed to appear at a Bucks County court hearing on their charges, records show.

They had both been arrested in August and jailed with bail set at $40,000. Court officials say a judge later eliminated their bail requirement and told the two to live in recovery houses.

Edgerton was allowed to go free in Bucks County on August 23, five days after authorities in Delaware County, Pa. had issued an arrest warrant because the new charges violated his parole there, the paper reported.

Parole supervisor Chris Pawlowski said the warrant was placed into law enforcement databases. Delaware County officials would have preferred to keep him in custody because of the violation, and said they weren’t notified that he was being freed.

“We have no knowledge that he was released from Bucks County,” Pawlowski said.

Investigators hunted Edgerton and Phillips for about 24 hours after the shooting, which occurred on I-95 south of the US 158 exit. Lawmen eventually found the pair Thursday in a wooded area near where the officer had been shot and the car abandoned.

Phillips was arrested and charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a stolen firearm and accessory after the fact of attempted murder. Officers found Edgerton dead after they say he turned the gun on himself.

Phillips was jailed without bond and will have a first court appearance Friday in Halifax.

“We feel like we’ve brought safety back to our neighborhood here,” said Roanoke Rapids Police Chief Jeff Hinton.

Officer Taylor performed a traffic stop at around 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday where he observed the vehicle in which the two were riding was following too closely to another vehicle, a minor traffic violation. Hinton said dashboard video shows Taylor was cautious as he walked to the vehicle and the shots were fired a few seconds later.

The suspect vehicle fled the scene and was later found abandoned at Halifax Academy, a short distance from where Officer Taylor was shot.

Law enforcement agencies from a wide area converged on Roanoke Rapids to offer assistance in searching for the suspects. Those agencies included lawmen from Northampton, Hertford and Bertie counties. That search, from ground and air, continued Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Halifax County Sheriff Jeff Frazier said bloodhounds flushed the pair from the woods on Thursday morning about 100 yards away from Halifax Academy. After the dogs discovered them, a short-standoff ensued and Phillips was taken into custody, according to Hinton. Edgerton was located in the woods dead and a .380 pistol recovered, said Frazier.

It is not clear whether the weapon Edgerton used to allegedly kill himself was the same one used to fire multiple shots at Taylor.

Officer Taylor is listed in critical condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

Hinton announced the Police Benevolent Association has established the John Taylor Foundation through BB&T to assist with travel expenses for the 31-year-old officer’s family.

“We can breathe a sigh of relief for the other officers,” Hinton said. “The community and businesses stepped up for the family of the officer. We appreciate it so much.”

(Lance Martin is the publisher and editor of