A man accused of fatally shooting sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Daniel Baker in Dickson County, Tennessee, has been captured following a two-day manhunt, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Friday via Twitter.
A trooper spotted suspect Steven Wiggins walking Friday morning on the edge of a road in a neighboring county, Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Dereck Stewart told reporters.
Trooper Kevin Burch, new to the job, noticed that the man’s tattoos and appearance matched those of the suspect wanted in the deputy’s shooting death. Burch drew his weapon.
“Mr. Wiggins … was totally obedient to the trooper’s order to get on the ground,” Stewart said.
Wiggins, who faces the death penalty, was taken to a hospital with injuries consistent with spending days exposed to the elements, authorities said.
At the hospital, awaiting transfer to the Dickson County Jail, Wiggins is wearing Baker’s handcuffs, Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said Baker — “being the man that he is” — had volunteered to work an earlier shift when he was killed Wednesday morning.
The sheriff read a statement from Baker’s wife, Lisa, who thanked law enforcement officials and the community for their support.
“I would like to ask our family, friends and community to help our daughter Meredith to always know how wonderful and amazing her father is,” Bledsoe, growing emotional, read from the widow’s statement.
The bureau had earlier Friday tweeted a photo of the bespectacled and handcuffed Wiggins, his shirt and jeans muddied and torn, in the back of a patrol car two days after authorities say he shot Baker to death following a 911 call reporting a suspicious vehicle in rural Middle Tennessee.
District Attorney General Ray Crouch said he will seek the death penalty against Wiggins, who faces a charge of first-degree murder.
The manhunt for the 31-year-old suspect began Wednesday morning along winding, treacherous terrain about 40 miles west of Nashville, authorities said.
One day before the deputy’s death, Wiggins was charged with aggravated assault, accused of slapping and pulling the hair of a woman he also threatened with a gun, according to a police report.
Erika Castro-Miles, described as an acquaintance of the suspect, told police Wiggins had been “doing meth all night and smoking marijuana” before assaulting her and stealing her car from a motel Tuesday morning in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, the police report said. He got away, it said.
Castro-Miles, 38, was charged this week with one count of first-degree murder in connection with the deputy’s death, according to the bureau. Prosecutors will also seek the death penalty against her.
She told investigators she was seated in the deputy’s vehicle with Wiggins and saw the suspect shoot Baker, 32, according to a criminal court affidavit. The woman fled and hid under a house before she was arrested.
Baker, a 10-year law enforcement veteran and former US Marine, had responded to a resident’s call about a suspicious vehicle about 7 a.m. Wednesday in Dickson County, said Susan Niland, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee bureau.
After a period of not being able to contact the deputy, authorities tracked down Baker’s vehicle with GPS in a wooded area about 2 miles from the location of the initial call by an officer from another agency. Baker was found dead in his vehicle.
Baker joined the sheriff’s office full-time in 2008 and became a member of the special operations unit in 2013, according to the sheriff.
A reward for information leading to Wiggins’ capture grew to $46,000 after contributions from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, federal law enforcement agencies and police associations from various cities.
“If the trooper was eligible, I think he would do the right thing and give it to Baker’s family,” Stewart said of the reward and the highway patrolman who made the arrest.