PoliceOne Staff Report (FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.) -- The man accused of leading police on a high speed chase that led to the death of a highway patrolman Tuesday afternoon says he was framed by someone using his identity.
Before a court appearance Wednesday, Travis Freeman told The Fayetteville Observer that he was not driving the car during the wild chase that reached speeds of 125 m.p.h. and left Trooper John H. Duncan Jr. dead.
''My heart goes out to the trooper's family,'' Freeman, 24, told the newspaper. ''But it wasn't me.''
Lawmen say that Duncan, 28, was killed in a fiery crash Tuesday afternoon while chasing the fleeing suspect. He had joined the force in 1998 and was the father of three children.
Police say that Freeman, driving a Lexus, was stopped just south of the city on highway 53 for speeding by Trooper Chris Williams. Duncan stopped to assist. During a search of Freeman's car, lawmen said that the suspect became involved in a struggle with Williams, got back in his Lexus and sped away, striking Williams.
As the troopers gave chase in separate vehicles, Duncan apparently lost control of his car. Police said Duncan's vehicle crashed into trees, overturned and burned on Turnbull Road , a rural area of southern Cumberland County.
After 24 hour search, Freeman was located and arrested in a Lumberton motel. He was charged with felony speeding to elude arrest and assault with a deadly weapon. Police said they may seek to file more charges against him.
Meanwhile, police have set up a memorial fund for Duncan's family, asking for contributions, as they prepare to bury the 52nd trooper killed in the line of duty since the Highway Patrol was established in 1929.
A wake for the fallen trooper will be held tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Rogers and Breece Funeral Home, 500 Ramsey St., Fayetteville. The funeral service will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Memorial Auditorium, U.S. 301 South, next to the Patrol office in Fayetteville. Burial arrangements were not immediately available.
The Trooper John H. Duncan Memorial Fund has been set up at the State Employees Credit Union. Those wishing to contribute may stop by any Credit Union office or mail a check to: Trooper John H. Duncan, Memorial Fund c/o State Employees Credit Union P.O. Box 787 Fayetteville, N.C. 28302
Prior to joining the Highway Patrol, Duncan, a native of Mississippi, was in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 1997, attaining the rank of sergeant. While in the Army, he was awarded medals for Good Conduct, Airborne Service, and Overseas Service, the Highway Patrol said.
Following a hearing before a magistrate, Freeman was held on $500,000 bond.