Highlands Police Chief Andrea Holland was beginning her morning patrol around 9 a.m. on Aug. 27, when Macon County dispatch called over the radio that a stolen wrecker was driving from Franklin and believed to be heading toward Highlands.
Motorists travelling the Highlands Road toward Franklin passed the wrecker travelling at a high speed followed by several law enforcement vehicles, both sheriff and Highway Patrol -– and presumed they were all headed to an accident on the Gorge.
Highlands Police Officer Leah McCall was stationed at the head of Buck Creek and spotted the stolen vehicle travelling at a high rate of speed being pursued by Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy Jay Wright.
Eventually, the wrecker, which was stolen from Ridgecrest Automotive in Franklin, crashed into an embankment near Buck Creek and Walnut Creek in Highlands.
“As I was arriving on scene, Deputy Wright and Officer McCall had the suspect in custody and were walking him to the patrol car when a struggle ensued,” said Chief Holland. “While the suspect attempted to resist arrest, we were able to subdue him and get him into the patrol car without further incident.”
Wyatt Lane Qualls, 27, of Franklin (pictured at the top of the article), was arrested and charged with felony probation violation, driving while impaired, reckless driving to endanger, breaking and entering a motor vehicle, larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, larceny of a firearm, possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a firearm by felon x 3, resisting a public officer x 3, possession of burglary tools, and flee/elude arrest with a motor vehicle.
He was issued a bond of $285,000.
According to MC Sheriff Robert Holland, Qualls stole the tow truck as the driver was preparing to get in it.
“The wrecker was stolen first thing this morning in broad daylight and recovered within the hour,” said Joe Condemi, owner. “Thank you Macon County Sheriff officers for acting quickly in the apprehension of an armed and dangerous criminal. We also want to thank Highlands PD and NC Highway Patrol for assisting throughout the entire process. Although our tow truck was ditched during the chase, miraculously no one was hurt.”
According to Chief Holland, after Qualls was successfully detained within the patrol car for transport, the scene was turned over to the North Carolina Highway Patrol and the Macon County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation.
Sheriff Holland commended the law enforcement officers.
“The officers with both MCSO and HPD did an outstanding job in bringing this situation to an end with a safe conclusion. It was an intense few moments for everyone involved knowing the suspect had firearms in his immediate reach and was obviously delusional.”
By Brittney Lofthouse, The Southern Scoop