Manhunt continues for 2nd suspect in Tennessee deputy’s shooting death
One day before allegedly shooting a Dickson County, Tennessee, sheriff’s deputy, Steven Joshua Wiggins was charged with aggravated assault for 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 in Kingston Springs, the police report said. He got away.
A 911 call reporting a suspicious vehicle in the rural Middle Tennessee area on Wednesday morning ended with the slaying of Dickson County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Daniel Baker.
The manhunt for Wiggins, 31, continued into Thursday evening along winding, treacherous terrain about 40 miles west of Nashville, authorities said.
Hours earlier, Castro-Miles was charged with one count of first-degree murder in connection with the death, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Castro-Miles, 38, was seated in the deputy’s vehicle with Wiggins and saw the suspect allegedly shot Baker, 32, according to a criminal court affidavit. The woman fled and hid under a house before she was arrested.
Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe said he saw video from the shooting scene Thursday that left him “even more heartbroken” about what Baker endured.
“When you’re able to witness that from our video, it’s more disturbing,” he said, without elaborating.
A line of TBI employees stood at attention Thursday afternoon as a procession of sheriff’s department vehicles escorted Baker’s body from the medical examiner’s office in Nashville to a funeral home in downtown Dixon, according to a tweet from the bureau.
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 agency.
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.
Reward offered in suspect’s capture
Authorities said the search for Wiggins, who has a history of violent crimes, continued Thursday along swaths of Dickson County. The manhunt involved US marshals as well as local canine and aviation units.
“The terrain can be treacherous,” Bledsoe told reporters. “It can be very demanding and trying.”
Bledsoe said investigators believe Wiggins could be on foot in the area.
“There will be no rest until he’s taken into custody,” he said.
Niland said more than 100 tips on Wiggins’ possible whereabouts had come in from around the country. She asked residents to report any suspicious activity.
“Because he is likely in a very desperate situation, he could be trying to take items or access areas,” she said of the suspect. “So if anyone in the area does see anything in their property that looks amiss, please contact authorities.”
Wiggins, 31, who was last seen wearing a black polo shirt and jeans, was identified from surveillance video and information collected at the scene, Niland said.
“You can see what can transpire from something that we think is just a suspicious vehicle,” an emotional Bledsoe said earlier.
Wiggins has been added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s 10 most-wanted list.
A reward for information leading to Wiggins’ capture on Thursday grew to $46,000 after contributions from Gov. Bill Haslam, federal law enforcement agencies and police associations from various cities.
A ‘faithful servant’
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. He was married with a daughter.
“There’s not much I can say today other than our hearts are shattered,” Bledsoe said.
“This is one of our best deputies. He’s a supervisor. He’s worked his way up to sergeant on patrol. He’s one of the guys who puts it on the line every day to keep our community safe.”
A friend of Baker’s set up a GoFundMe page for the family of the slain deputy, who had recently purchased a home.
“He is one of the most courageous, loving, and hard working (men) I know and he would be the first to volunteer or help someone out,” wrote the friend, Blaine Marlin.
Baker once helped rescue a woman trapped underwater in a vehicle and, more recently, joined in the capture a gunman at a shooting outside a theater, according to Bledsoe.
Bledsoe had a message for Wiggins: “If he is listening or anyone listening that knows him, that can talk some sense into him that he will turn himself in, that’s what he needs to do.”
In a statement to CNN affiliate WZTV in Nashville, Baker’s mother, Veronica Bryan, described her son as a kind and compassionate young man.
“He loved his family, and adored his wife and daughter,” the statement said. “He loved the outdoors, fishing and hunting. He served his country in the Marines and came home to serve his community. He was a faithful servant to all.”