Update: Sheriff releases names in double homicide, officer killing
by Tom Mayer
A law enforcement K-9 officer with the U.S. Forest Service was killed, along with the suspect in a double homicide, Wednesday in Burke County, according to the Burke County Sheriff's Office.
According to the sheriff's office, deputies responded to a welfare check at 8:53 a.m. on Wednesday. Upon arrival, deputies found Levi and Rhonda Whisnant dead at 5504 Fish Hatchery Road. The son of the deceased, Troy David Whisnant, 38, quickly became a person of interest.
While the Burke County Sheriff's Office was at the homicide scene, the N.C. Highway Patrol came to the scene and advised deputies that they were investigating two vehicle larcenies. The vehicle larceny suspect became the same person of interest deputies were searching for in regard to the homicide.
The Burke County Sheriff's Office located the second stolen vehicle off Old Table Rock Road and officers began tracking Whisnant through the woods. A law enforcement K-9 officer working for the U.S. Forest Service was killed by Whisnant at about 2:55 p.m., according to the sheriff's office. Reports indicate that the officer killed was 38-year-old Jason Crisp, a former McDowell County sheriff's deputy.
Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant said Crisp had been ambushed by Whisnant, according to reports. Whisnant also reportedly killed Crisp's K-9, Maros, and stole the officer's .45-caliber pistol and magazine.
Nearly two hours later, at about 4:41 p.m., Whisnant was observed in the woods and was commanded to lay his weapon down. Whisnant fired a shot at the officers, and the officers returned fire, killing Whisnant, according to the sheriff's office.
The investigation concerning the U.S. Forest officer shooting is being handled by the FBI, and the shooting of the suspect by law enforcement officers is being handled by the SBI.
Agencies involved included the Burke County Sheriff's Office, N.C. Highway Patrol, Avery County, Caldwell County, U.S. Forestry Service, Morganton Pubic Safety, NCDOT, Watauga County, SBI, FBI, N.C. Wildlife, ALE, N.C. Licenses and Theft Bureau, Valdese Police Department, Glen Alpine Police Department, Drexel Police Department, Burke Emergency Services, Lake James Fire Department and Oak Hill Fire Department.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety information database, Whisnant served one year in prison, from 1997 to 1998, for manslaughter.
He also has been incarcerated for assault on a public official, resisting arrest, multiple charges of possession of stolen goods and credit card fraud.
Whisnant also was charged with multiple drug possession charges.
A sergeant from Watauga County Sheriff's Office was assisting Burke County law enforcement, and several more Watauga County deputies were on standby.
On Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory and United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued statements about Crisp's death.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victims of (Wednesday') tragic events in Burke County, especially U.S. Forest Service Officer Jason Crisp and his service dog," McCrory said. "I also want to thank our first responders and law enforcement officers for their courage and valor in responding to these devastating events. Ann (McCrory) and I will continue to pray for the victims and their families as they deal with this horrible situation."
Vilsack echoed McCrory's sentiments.
"U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Jason Crisp gave his life (Wednesday) in service to his country," Vilsack said. "On behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture, I offer my deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. We keep Jason in our thoughts and prayers and pledge to honor all of those who protect and serve. Officer Crisp, who was killed alongside his K-9 partner, Maros, upheld the finest traditions of the Forest Service."
Also on Thursday, McCrory said that he was currently traveling to Burke County to spend time with Crisp's wife and the first responders involved in Wednesday's events.