NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Steven Wiggins, the man suspected in the fatal shooting of a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop, was arrested Friday after a two-day manhunt, authorities said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted photos of a handcuffed Wiggins, grimacing as he was placed into the back seat of a law enforcement vehicle Friday morning.
His clothes were muddy and his jeans were ripped open.
“Teamwork and diligence has paid off!” read one of the agency’s tweets.
Officials detailed the arrest at a Friday press conference. A new trooper, Kevin Burch, was on patrol in Hickman County Friday morning when he saw a person near a woodline, according to Lt. Col. Dereck Stewart of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The trooper walked up to approach the man and noticed he had tattoos and met the description of the suspect, Stewart said.
The trooper drew his weapon and ordered the suspect to get on the ground. The suspect “willfully obeyed” the trooper and was taken into custody without incident, Stewart said.
Williamson County sheriff’s Capt. Mark Elwood, who helped direct the aerial search for Wiggins, described the search area to CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann earlier this week.
“The terrain is very rough out there – a lot of creeks, a lot of hills,” Elwood said. “It’s heavily treed, a lot of underbrush, so the guys on the ground are having a tough time walking and moving through the area out there.”
The TBI said Wiggins is being treated for injuries that appeared to be non-serious and “consistent with someone who had been out in the elements for a few days.” He was expected to be booked later.
Dickson County sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Baker was killed after responding to a call about a suspicious car stopped on the side of the roadway early Wednesday, the state police agency said. Baker had volunteered to work a shift earlier than his normal shift because of staffing issues, Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe said, and had responded because he was the trooper closest to the call.
Baker discovered the vehicle had been reported stolen, Bledsoe said. He wouldn’t detail what investigators believe happened next, but said the situation escalated.
Baker couldn’t be contacted for some time, but the deputy’s car was eventually tracked by GPS to a wooded area 2 or 3 miles away. The deputy was found dead inside of it.
Bledsoe said Baker, 32, was one of their best, working his way up to sergeant on patrol during 10 years with the department. He also served in the Marine Corps Reserves. Baker was survived by his wife and daughter.
Bledsoe cried Friday as he read a statement from Baker’s wife, Lisa, thanking the community for their support and law enforcement for their work in apprehending “the suspects that have forever changed our lives.”
“There are no words to describe the level of devastation myself and my family are dealing with,” the statement read.
Lisa Baker asked the community to help their daughter Meredith to remember her father as a “wonderful” person.
“His service to his country and community will always be remembered,” the statement said.
The TBI said a video recording enabled them to identify the 31-year-old Wiggins as the suspect. Federal, state and local authorities searched for Wiggins over two days, checking into hundreds of tips. Rewards totaling $46,000 had been offered for information leading to his arrest.
Wiggins was already wanted on charges that he assaulted a woman and stole her car when he was pulled over Wednesday, according to a report from the Kingston Springs Police Department.
That woman was in the car with Wiggins when he pulled the trigger, and is now jailed on a murder charge in Baker’s death, according to court documents.
The report says 38-year-old Erika Castro-Miles told police early Tuesday that Wiggins had slapped her in the face and pulled out some of her hair, then put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her if she called police. She said he then grabbed her keys and took her car without her permission.
Castro-Miles also told police Wiggins had been “doing meth all night and smoking marijuana.” She told police she planned to press charges, the report said.
The next day, she was sitting in the car with Wiggins when he shot the deputy, according to local news reports, citing an affidavit filed in Dickson County court.
She fled the shooting scene Wednesday and hid under a house, the affidavit says. Now she’s in the Dickson County Jail.