WAYNESVILLE, NC (WSPA) – A prisoner escaped from a detention van, carjacked a Jeep with a child inside, and led police on a chase before crashing and being shot by officers.
Haywood County Sheriff’s Office identified the escaped prisoner as Robert Edward Branning of Canton. Branning has been charged with felony larceny, felony possession of a stolen firearm, assaulting a detention employee, violating probation and other crimes.
Inmates from Haywood County were being transferred to Buncombe County Jail when the detention officer stopped the van on the side of Interstate 40 due to a disturbance. When the van stopped, one inmate tried to run from the van but was quickly taken back into custody. That inmate has been identified as Joshua Phillips of Canton.
Phillips has been charged with attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, discharging a weapon into occupied property, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, resisting a public officer, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of marijuana, among other charges.
While Phillips attempted to get away, deputies say Branning carjacked an off-duty officer who stopped to help the detention officer. Branning scuffled with the off-duty officer before getting into the officer’s vehicle and taking off with a 6-year-old child, according to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office. The officer tried to stop Branning as he fled and was dragged several hundred feet.
Deputies say the stolen car was spotted by law enforcement in Bethel several minutes later and a chase began. Officers used stop sticks to flatten the front tires of the stolen car near Waynesville city limits.
The chase continued on US-279 into Waynesville then on to Main Street where the inmate stopped the car and displayed a gun that he found inside the carjacked vehicle before he was shot by deputies, according to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office.
Branning was taken to an area hospital for his injuries.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations is investigating the incident.