A man suspected of abducting a 14-year-old girl from her North Carolina home led police on a car chase and has since died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
The 14-year-old was found safe in Arkansas, about 800 miles away from home, and has been taken back to her family, said police in Lonoke, Arkansas.
The case began on Feb. 11, when the suspect, 38-year-old William Ice, allegedly took the teen from her Denton home in Davidson County after communicating with her through multiple online platforms, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office said.
At about 8 p.m. Saturday, two officers in Lonoke, Arkansas, recognized an SUV at a McDonald's in connection to the abduction case, the Arkansas State Police said Sunday.
The officers saw two people inside the SUV and ordered the driver -- later identified as Ice -- to get out, police said.
As Ice exited the car, he "aimed a gun at one of the officers and began shooting, critically wounding the officer," state police said.
The second Lonoke officer, who wasn't hit, returned fire, while Ice got back in the car and fled, police said.
An Arkansas state trooper chased Ice through Lonoke until Ice's car became disabled in a snowbank, police said.
The 14-year-old girl then fled the car to safety, police said.
Inside the SUV, the trooper found that Ice was injured from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said. Ice later died at a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, police said.
The wounded Lonoke police officer, Cody Carpenter, was shot several times but is "expected to make a full recovery," said Lonoke police.
Authorities determined that Ice was also allegedly talking to several other underage girls in Alamance County, North Carolina, the sheriff's office said. A search of his home found two names and addresses of 13-year-olds in Alamance County, said Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. "Upon interviewing these individuals and also seizing their school computers, we found ... a total of 10 juveniles that had contact with Mr. Ice," Johnson said.
Ice, from Mercer County, Pennsylvania, had also been "wanted by Pennsylvania law enforcement authorities in connection with other child predator cases," Arkansas State Police said.
Davidson County Sheriff Sgt. David Blake said at a news conference Monday, "We know Mr. Ice was actively, had actively been charged for crimes against a child. Physical crimes against a child."
"In addition to that we understand he’d been basically caught in an exploitation sting by law enforcement up in that area. He was actively on the run and he had warrants when he came here to pick up [the 14-year-old girl in Davidson County, North Carolina]," Blake said.
Authorities said Ice used different email accounts and chat rooms in an attempt to remain anonymous.
"We do know of at least two to three other juveniles in Davidson County," Blake continued. "Majority of them were females and one particular male. It seems to be a middle school age range that he was specifically targeting."
Davidson County Sherif Richie Simmons said Monday that it's hard to monitor children when they take classes from home during the pandemic.
"Our kids need to be back in school. While they're in school there's firewalls for this. When they are taking tablets home, there’s nothing," he said.