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Informant in federal drug investigation barely escapes shooting ambush


These photo shows the bullet-riddled car in which an informant in a Federal drug case was shot (but escaped with his life) August 29, 2015, in Wittenburg.


(Updated Sep. 9, 3:50 pm)

Drug-related shootout reported
in Wittenburg August 29

Federal authorities have arrested four local people whom they believe were involved in either tampering with or shooting at a local informant in a drug case.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Federal court in Charlotte on Thursday, Sept. 3, three men and one woman are charged in the incident, which occurred Saturday, August 29.

Named as defendants in the federal court document were: William Cody Elder, age 23, of Stony Point; Michael Wayne Little, 42, of Taylorsville;  and Joshua Thomas Smith, 35, of Taylorsville. Lindsey Jordan Price, age 21 of Taylorsville, was named a defendant in a separate federal criminal complaint.

The investigation into the shooting began as an incident reported to the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office, said Sheriff Chris Bowman.

On August 29, about 9 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office received a report of shots fired in the area of Pine Tree Lane off Church Road, near Wittenburg Elementary School.

Officers responded and found there had been a shooting at a residence. A man had been shot in the leg and upper body. However, he was not at that location when deputies arrived. 

The individual who was shot (which turned out to be one of the aggressors) had been placed in a pickup truck, to be transported by others to a hospital. Deputies found the injured man located in a pickup truck on Church Road, near NC 16 South.

Alexander County EMS responded to transport the injured man to a Catawba County hospital. He was treated and then released from the hospital Sunday, Aug. 30, said Bowman.

The Federal court affadavit filed Sept. 3, involving the three male defendants, sheds more light on who was injured. It states that, earlier this summer, investigators were aided by a confidential informant, who was the intended victim in the Aug. 29 attack by Elder, Little, and Smith.

On June 23-24, 2015, the informant helped lead Federal agents to about 3,400 grams (nearly six pounds) of methamphetamine and $23,824 in U.S. currency, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. Authorities also seized two handguns and a rifle from a related residence in Atlanta.

On August 17, 2015, the same informant assisted law enforcement in making a controlled purchase of one ounce (28 grams) of crystal methamphetamine from Joshua Thomas Smith in Alexander County. Defendant Michael Wayne Little, also known as “Turkey,” was present during the transaction, according to the affadavit. Federal agents believe that Little was  present there to act as security for Smith.

Then, on August 20, 2015, the informant assisted law enforcement in making another controlled purchase in Alexander County from Smith. Again, Little was present at the transaction, apparently as security, when an “eight-ball” (3.5 grams or 1/8 oz.) of crystal meth was purchased from Smith.

Investigators learned that co-conspirators in the case had announced a $20,000 bounty to murder the informant, whom the co-conspirators believed was involved with the law enforcement operations mentioned above.

Lindsey Jordan Price was charged in a separate criminal complaint filed Aug. 31 in Federal court. She became aware that the informant was acting as an informer and she then communicated that fact to her brother. Recorded conversations show that Price’s brother (not named) told Little and Smith, and possibly others, about the informant.

On August 29, Elder, Little, and Smith armed themselves, according to the court document, and Smith arranged to meet with the informant at the home of Smith’s girlfriend in Alexander County (Wittenburg).

Investigators say that Elder, Little, and Smith started firing numerous rounds of ammunition from a shotgun and rifle, and possibly a handgun, at the informant while he and a woman were in the informant’s vehicle.

Smith was shot in the leg early in the firefight, possibly by Elder or Little, and he took cover.

The informant survived the attack and drove away. It appeared that the informant shot Smith once in the upper body. The three male defendants also left the scene, taking the firearms with them.

The residence of Smith’s girlfriend was equipped with a DVR (video system) monitoring the site of the confrontation. Federal agents stated the girlfriend had manually set the DVR to record at the time of the confrontation -- possibly to help capture video of the intended killing and help claim the bounty on the informant’s life.

Though the video needs to be digitally enhanced (and some of the action took place outside the camera’s view), it shows Elder and Smith used a shotgun and rifle. Little is a convicted felon and thus is prohibited from possessing a firearm, according to the court document.

Federal authorities obtained search warrants and seized Smith’s car, digital scales, and baggies consistent with drug trafficking, as well as about $3,500 in U.S. currency.

Little admitted in an interview with authorities on August 30 that he and Elder had discharged their firearms at the informant.

On September 2, in another interview with law enforcement, Little admitted selling “eight-balls” of methamphetamine every week for the past five years.

The court document indicates that federal authorities will seek charges against Elder, Little, and Smith of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine (a Schedule II controlled substance); use and carry, brandishing, and discharging of firearm in relation to, and possession in furtherance of, drug trafficking; and tampering with witness or informant.

The Federal criminal complaint against Price alleges offenses of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine (a Schedule II controlled substance); possession of firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; and tampering with witness or informant.

All defendants had initial appearances in Federal court in Charlotte on Friday morning, Sept. 4.  They are currently all detained pending their detention hearings set for Thursday, Sept. 10.


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