Saturday, July 15, 2023

North Carolina Trooper Survives .44 Magnum Shot to Vest Following Gunfight Sparked by Flat Tire Incident

 Image from Buncombe County DA

On the evening of July 3rd, 2023, around 7:30 PM, State Trooper Jeffrey L. Dunlap of North Carolina identified a car stranded on I-26's shoulder, near the 33rd-mile marker.

Media reports indicate that Wesley Scot Taylor, 56, was attempting to fix a flat tire when Trooper Dunlap arrived at the scene. The encounter was cordial until Dunlap requested an alcohol test due to an alcoholic odor from Taylor. Following this, Taylor retreated to his truck cab. Dunlap presumed Taylor was getting a tool to continue the tire change. However, Taylor emerged with a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle, as stated by the Buncombe County DA. A dashcam video reportedly captured the subsequent shootout, initiated by Taylor. Trooper Dunlap retaliated and fatally shot Taylor. As of now, the dashcam footage remains unreleased to the public.

According to a review by the State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney Todd Williams confirmed that Dunlap stopped to help the driver, Wesley Taylor, and detected alcohol on his breath. The situation escalated when Trooper Dunlap requested an alcohol test. 

Williams explains, "Suddenly, there was tension. Taylor went back into his vehicle and Dunlap thought he was getting tools to fix his wheel. However, he came out with a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle."

Subsequently, Taylor fired at Dunlap, striking him in the chest. Dunlap's bulletproof vest halted the bullet, as confirmed by Williams. Dunlap promptly responded by drawing his weapon and shooting Taylor dead.

Research by WLOS reveals that Taylor had multiple felony convictions in Kentucky from 1984 to 1990, serving sentences for those offenses. North Carolina records show that Taylor's charges were primarily traffic-related. He had charges for an expired registration card/tag and expired inspection in October 2021, to which he pleaded guilty in February 2022. He also faced a driving under the influence charge in 2012, dismissed by the district attorney in Buncombe County at that time, Ron Moore. In the 1984-1990 period, Taylor was convicted of various offenses in Kentucky, including aggravated assault, fugitive warrants, forcible sex offenses, and burglary.

When WLOS interviewed Taylor's neighbors, they expressed surprise and shock. Taylor's neighbor commented, "Many people do things they shouldn't. When caught, their reaction is to handle it personally." Another neighbor described Taylor as a "great guy," left stunned by the unfolding events.

The public is awaiting the release of the dashcam footage. The Buncombe County DA has presented a bullet image, believed to be the one halted by Dunlap's bullet-resistant vest.

Image from Buncombe County DA

While determining measurements from a photograph can be tricky, the bullet's base diameter seems to be 10mm or less. It might be that much of Dunlap's vest was cut to reveal the bullet, but it doesn't seem deeply embedded. The diameter of a .44 Magnum bullet is .429 inches or 10.9 mm. A more precise measurement could have been made with a digital caliper.

At this point, no toxicology reports have been found for Taylor. Trooper Dunlap's response has been deemed justified.

Fox News reported that a seasoned North Carolina state trooper was justified in fatally shooting an armed suspect during a traffic stop, where the shooter fired at him, with his ballistic vest saving his life, according to prosecutors' statements on Tuesday.

Wesley Scott Taylor, a convicted felon over thirty years ago, appeared to have drinking issues. The court's potential to convict someone of drinking and driving based on circumstantial evidence, even when not driving, could have landed Taylor in a difficult situation. The request for an alcohol test may have set off a domino effect of consequences Taylor was not ready to confront. A DUI arrest could lead to car towing, a car search, discovery of the Desert Eagle, and felony charges for illegal possession of a firearm due to interconnected databases. With these potential outcomes, Taylor's peaceful life in North Carolina was at risk due to a flat tire. If alcohol had clouded his judgement, it likely influenced his decision to engage in a shootout. However, given the dashcam and standard law enforcement procedures, his hope to escape unidentified seems unrealistic.

Taylor might have avoided these potential consequences by abstaining from alcohol and not possessing a firearm. As a society, the United States has heightened its stance against drunk driving, and federal law has placed a lifetime ban on felons possessing firearms for 55 years. Interestingly, the law that posed the greatest legal threat to Taylor is currently being challenged in courts as unconstitutional. 

The Roman Senator and Historian, Tacitus, is known to have written (translated): "The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state."

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