Escaped inmate caught in Virginia
by Allison Haver and Anna Oakes
UPDATE 6:55 p.m.: Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman and Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman held a brief press conference to provide more information about the search. The sheriffs clarified that the inmate was being transported back to Watauga County from Alexander County at the time of his escape. Smith made a court appearance in Alexander related to charges in that county and was being returned to Watauga County pending charges here.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are scanning the area via air patrol, ground searches and canine teams. Participating are the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, Alexander Sheriff's Office, Boone Police Department and officers from Wilkes County, Blowing Rock, Appalachian State University, Caldwell County and the State Highway Patrol.
UPDATE 6:44 p.m.: Be-on-the-lookout alert reissued; officers advised to use caution because a large hunting knife is located in driver's side door.
UPDATE 6:19 p.m.: Ashe and Johnson County authorities are being advised to look out for the suspect.
UPDATE 6:17 p.m.: Dispatchers advised that a knife may be in the chocolate-colored 4runner the suspect is believed to be operating.
UPDATE 6:13 p.m.: An aircraft will be arriving on scene to aid in the effort, per scanner traffic.
Several area law enforcement agencies are currently searching for an escaped inmate in an area east of Boone near U.S. 421, Old U.S. 421 and Archie Carroll Road, according to scanner traffic.
Officers have indicated the inmate is James Smith, 35, 6-0, white, 175 pounds with tattoos on his arms. Smith has charges of breaking and entering a vehicle, larceny of a firearm, felony larceny, fleeing and eluding arrest, possession of a stolen vehicle, reckless driving and other charges.
The inmate was being transported back to Watauga County from Alexander County at the time of his escape, Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman said.
The missing inmate has a history of being aggressive toward officers and is considered dangerous, according to Boone Police Capt. Andy Le Beau. According to scanner traffic, the inmate has shed a portion or all of his orange uniform and could be wearing a white t-shirt.
The suspect could be operating a 1998 brown Toyota runner with license plate number XYC1966 and a front personalized Harley Davidson plate reading DYNA. The vehicle could possibly be stolen, according to scanner traffic.
Residents in the area are advised to lock their doors and remain indoors and to call police if they observe anything suspicious.
Archie Carroll Road has been blocked to vehicular traffic. Police have called medics to the area to remain on standby. Police are searching the area on foot and with canine units.