The man accused of fatally shooting a Caldwell County sheriff's deputy is a former S.C. police officer with Army Ranger training who continued to elude authorities Sunday.
All day, hundreds of federal, state and local investigators searched unsuccessfully in woods off winding roads for Larry Wayne Brucke Jr., an Iraq War veteran, who recently changed his name to Skip Brinkley. Authorities described him Sunday as “very dangerous.” He is accused of shooting Det. Adam Klutz in the head after he responded to a 911 hang-up call about 9:40 p.m. Friday. Klutz died early Saturday.
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Lt. Chris Martin, who arrived moments later to back Klutz up, also was shot three times. He was spared serious injuries by his bullet proof vest.
Authorities Sunday said they believe Brinkley is armed at least with an assault rifle and he is now believed to be on foot or in a vehicle. After two days of searching, they had found no evidence indicating he was nearby. They said they weren't sure if he had been injured when Martin returned fire.
There were initial reports that he possibly rode off on a horse from the farm he lives on at Fox Winkler Road. But that horse was accounted for on Sunday, said Det. B.J. Fore, a spokesman for the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators declined to provide a recording of the 911 hang-up call and other calls possibly made after the shootings. They also couldn't say whether there had ever been reports of trouble at the home nestled among rolling hills off N.C. 64.
Dozens of police vehicles blocked access to the area Sunday where volunteers turned the Oak Hill Community Ruritan Club into a makeshift dining hall for searchers. Residents rolled out homemade pies while others grilled burgers and served fries to heavily-armed deputies with camouflage-painted faces.
By nightfall, authorities halted the search operation. But today there will be additional security at the nearby Oak Hill Elementary school and armed officers riding school buses, officials said.
“We're talking about a very dangerous person,” Fore said.
He declined to give any details about what may have prompted the 911 call. Brinkley's fiancée and two children who were in the home at the time, were not injured, Fore said.
He used to patrol the area and said he wasn't familiar with Brinkley, who had been in Caldwell County only for about a year.
Brinkley grew up in Walhalla, S.C., west of Greenville. His father, Larry Wayne Brucke Sr. told WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner, that he joined the Army right out of high school. He served at Fort Campbell, Ky. and in Iraq as an infantry soldier from 2004-2006. Authorities couldn't specify when he received Ranger training, or whether he completed it.
Authorities could not confirm whether Brinkley was honorably discharged or confirm whether he was injured during his Iraq service. In addition to his military training, Brinkley completed basic law enforcement training in North Carolina and served as a police officer in Seneca, S.C. before joining the National Guard. His father told WCNC he served about a year in the Guard before getting out. His father said he was not aware of any troubles during Brinkley's military service.
Brinkley, who only recently changed his name, had been working most recently as a part-time truck driver and had a large construction project underway behind the home on Fox Winkler Road.
Relatives in Lenoir hung up on the Observer Sunday.
Friday's shooting was the second time recently that a suspect took aim at members of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office. Earlier this month, two deputies were shot while serving a search warrant. The deputies, who were wearing bullet proof vests, weren't seriously hurt.
“This has been a rough few weeks for this department,” Fore said. “Our department is hurting, but we are carrying on with this investigation, out of pride and for Adam.”