Inmate uses pliers as weapon to escape
by Allison Haver
The inmate that led multiple law enforcement agencies on a chase from Watauga County to Damascus, Va., Monday escaped custody using a pair of pliers, authorities said.
James Brandon Smith, 35, of Newton was being transported back to Watauga County at the time of his escape.
Smith was in Alexander County for a court appearance related to charges in that county and was being returned to Watauga County pending charges here.
According to Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman, Smith obtained a pair of needle-nose pliers from a toolbox in the Alexander County jail.
During transport, the inmate threatened to use the pliers as a weapon by holding them to the throat of the Alexander County law enforcement officer transporting him.
Smith has a history of being aggressive toward officers and is considered dangerous, according to Boone Police Capt. Andy Le Beau.
On May 21, Smith was arrested in Hickory after stealing a vehicle from a convenience store, leading police on a car chase and firing shots at law enforcement officers according to the Hickory Record.
Smith was charged with assault with a firearm on law enforcement officer, larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving while license revoked and hit and run property damage according to his May arrest report.
Smith made bond, which was set at $62,000 after his arrest in May according to the Catawba County Sheriff's office.
According to officers involved with the search on Monday, Smith stole a 1998 brown Toyota runner and dispatchers advised that a large hunting knife was located in driver's side door.
Multiple law enforcement agencies scanned the area east of Boone near U.S. 421, Old U.S. 421 and Archie Carroll Road via air patrol, ground searches and canine teams.
Participating agencies were 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.
Smith was taken into custody about 9 p.m. on Monday, near the intersection of State Route 91 and Orchard Hill Road in Washington County, Va., according to Washington County dispatch.
Officers with the Damascus Police Department had set up a traffic stop at the Tennessee and Virginia state line at Route 91. Smith fled, leading officers on a car chase, according to Damascus Police.
Smith lost control of and crashed the stolen Toyota runner a little after 8 p.m. during the police chase and then took off on foot and a manhunt involving Washington County law enforcement and K9 units took place according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
According to dispatch, Smith was apprehended via K9.
Smith was taken to Johnson Memorial Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. He will be held at the Abingdon Regional Jail until his court process is finished in Virginia. Smith is currently facing multiple charges in multiple counties in North Carolina including Watauga, Catawba and Alexander.
"He has approximately 15 to 18 warrants here in Alexander, with the majority of them being motor vehicle theft and larceny," Bowman said. "All are felony charges."
Smith now faces charges in Washington County, Va., including felony alluding a police officer, possession of a stolen vehicle, resisting arrest, hit and run, property damage and fugitive of justice according to the Damascus Police Department.