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Haywood County inmate escapes, steals car, leads deputies on a chase

An escaped inmate was shot after a vehicle chase in Waynesville Friday, near Exit 31, on Oct. 21, 2016. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. -- An inmate escaped a transport vehicle, carjacked a Jeep with a six-year-old inside, and led police on a wild chase through downtown Waynesville before being shot by an officer.

The incident started just before noon on Friday when a detention officer was transporting two inmates from Haywood to Buncombe County. According to a press release from the sheriff's office, the officer "observed one of the inmates causing a disturbance in the transport vehicle" near the Champion Road exit (Exit 31) on I-40.

When the officer stopped to take care of the disturbance, one of the inmates got out of the car and tried to run. He was apprehended quickly, but while that was happening, the second inmate got out and stole a Jeep driven by someone who had stopped to help while passing the officer's car.

None of the people involved in this incident have been identified by police.

Witnesses say the inmate dropped the 6-year-old off at the BP/EZ Stop gas station in Clyde. An attendant at the station said police came there asking to see surveillance footage, but when they reviewed the tape, nothing was visible from the cameras on the side of the station--where the inmate allegedly dropped the child off.

Deputies say the inmate was then spotted in the Bethel community. They chased him again, calling in Waynesville Police to deploy stop sticks near the city limits to flatten the front tires.

"The inmate continued in the hijacked vehicle on US 276 toward Waynesville, then turned on to Main Street as Sheriff's deputies and Waynesville Police officers continued to pursue the vehicle," according to the release.

The Jeep came to a stop right in front of the Mast General Store downtown. That's when police say the inmate "stopped and exited the vehicle on Main Street in the center of downtown Waynesville and displayed a gun. Deputies responded with gunfire," according to the release.

The inmate has not been identified, but is recovering at a local hospital, according to a sheriff's office spokesperson. The child that was dropped off at the gas station is unharmed, according to the same spokesperson.

Sheriff Greg Christopher said he cannot release more information because the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.

Neither he nor his spokesperson would address how the inmate escaped the vehicle. The spokesperson did say, however, that the gun was retrieved from inside the stolen Jeep.

NOTE: This story was updated after the sheriff's office corrected the boy's age as 6 years old (they had previously said he was 4). A spokesperson also clarified that the inmate got the gun from inside the stolen car.

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