On the evening of July 3rd, 2023, at about 7:30 P.M., North Carolina State Trooper Jeffrey L. Dunlap noticed a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of I-26, near milepost 33.
From media reports, it appears Wesley Scot Taylor, 56, was in the process of changing a tire when Trooper Jeffrey L. Dunlap stopped to investigate. The interaction was friendly until Dunlap asked Taylor to take an alcohol test. Dunlap says he smelled alcohol on Taylor’s breath. Taylor went to the cab of his truck. Dunlap thought he was obtaining a tool to aid in the changing of the tire. Taylor returned with a Desert Eagle handgun, chambered in .44 magnum, as reported by the Buncombe County DA. There is reported to be dashcam camera video showing the gunfight which ensued. Taylor is reported as firing the first shot, which is said to have occurred moments after the screenshot shown above. Dunlap returned fire and killed Taylor. The dashcam video has not been released to the public as of this writing.
Per the State Bureau of Investigation review, District Attorney Todd Williams said Dunlap pulled over to assist the driver, Wesley Taylor, of Leicester, and smelled alcohol on his breath. According to Williams, the interaction changed once Trooper Dunlap asked Taylor to take an alcohol test.
“At that point, some friction erupted,” Williams said. “And Mr. Taylor went into his car and Trooper Dunlap assumed that he was getting other tools to get his tire back on, get his wheel back on, and emerged with a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle.”
At that point, Taylor pulled the trigger, shooting Dunlap in the chest. The bullet was stopped by the trooper’s bulletproof vest, where it remained lodged, Williams said. Dunlap then quickly pulled his gun from its holster and returned fire, killing Taylor.
WLOS investigations shows Wesley Scot Taylor had been convicted of multiple felonies in Kentucky between 1984 and 1990 and had served time for those offenses over 30 years ago. From wlos.com, checking criminal records:
According to North Carolina records, Taylor only had traffic citations and violations. In October 2021, he was charged with an expired registration card/tag and an expired inspection. In February 2022, he pleaded guilty and responsible to those charges. Taylor was also charged with driving while impaired in 2012, which was dismissed by the district attorney in Buncombe County at the time, Ron Moore. In 2012, charges for an expired registration and driving under the influence were also dismissed by the DA.
In Kentucky, between 1984-1990, Taylor was found guilty of charges ranging from aggravated assault, fugitive warrants, forcible sex offenses, and burglary, for which he served time.
WLOS interviewed Taylor’s neighbors. From wlos.com article with interviews from neighbors:
“There’s a lot of people doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” said Taylor’s neighbor. “I guess that’s just their reaction when they get caught, to try and take care of it themselves.
Another neighbor told News 13 Taylor was a “great guy” and they are left stunned by the news.
It is to be hoped the dashcam video will be released to the public. The Buncombe County DA released this image of a bullet, said to be the bullet stopped by Dunlap’s bullet-resistant vest.
Obtaining measurements from a photograph can be difficult. In the photograph, the diameter of the bullet base appears to be 10mm or less. It may be much of the vest worn by Dunlap was cut away to reveal the bullet, but it does not appear to be embedded very much in the remaining material. A .44 Magnum bullet is .429 inches in diameter or 10.9 mm. It would have been better if a digital caliper were used to measure the bullet diameter and included in the photograph.
This correspondent has found no toxicology reports for Taylor. Trooper Dunlap has been found justified in his actions.
A veteran North Carolina state trooper was justified in fatally shooting an armed suspect during a traffic stop in which the gunman opened fire on him, with only his ballistic vest saving his life, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Wesley Scott Taylor was a convicted felon over thirty years ago. He appears to have been a drinker. The courts have ruled one may be convicted of drinking and driving on circumstantial evidence, even if you are not driving at the time. While Taylor was not driving, he faced the potential of a decade in jail for possession of a firearm as a felon. The request for an alcohol test might have triggered a cascade of consequences Taylor was unwilling to face. Alcohol test leads to arrest. Arrest leads to towing of the car, then search of the car. Search of the car leads to discovery of the Desert Eagle. With today’s interconnected databases, arrest and fingerprinting lead to felony charges for illegal possession of the pistol, with a potential of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Taylor seems to have created a new and peaceful life for himself in North Carolina. All was now at risk because of a flat tire leading to a cascade of consequences. If Taylor’s judgement was affected by alcohol, it likely contributed to his decision to start a gunfight. He might have believed he could flee the scene without being identified. If so, it was a fantasy, considering the dashcam and existing operating procedures by most law enforcement.
Taylor could have avoided those consequences if he were not drinking and not in possession of a firearm. As a society, the United States has demonized drinking and driving to unprecedented levels. For 55 years, Federal law has created a lifetime ban on the possession of firearms by felons. Ironically, the law which contributed the most to Taylor’s potential legal risk is being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional.
The Roman Senator and Historian, Tacitus, is quoted as writing (translated):
“The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state.”
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.