FBI shoots, kills fugitive murder suspect
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A North Carolina murder suspect, who had been hiding in Atmore for several days, was shot and killed May 20 by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, several hours after a failed attempt to take him alive led to fruitless surrender negotiations.
James E. Jewell, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Mobile Division, said during a brief press briefing in Atmore City Hall’s auditorium, that Tobby Wiggins, age not provided, was shot and killed by FBI agents.
Very little information was released during the briefing, which was televised live by at least three television stations. FBI Public Affairs Specialist Tommy Luftis told journalists prior to the briefing that it would be “statement only, no questions.” He added that, “at a later date, we might take questions about the incident, but not tonight.”
Jewell said in the roughly 40-second statement that authorities had tracked Wiggins to Atmore and were trying to serve him with the fugitive warrant when things went south.
“Today the FBI’s Mobile field office followed up on information from the FBI-Charlotte field office about the presence of a federal fugitive … who was wanted for first-degree murder … in North Carolina,” said the SAC. “The investigation determined the subject was staying in Atmore. FBI special agents identified the location of the subject and attempted to take the subject into custody.
“During the course of the law enforcement action, the subject was shot and killed by FBI special agents.”
Wiggins was reportedly the primary suspect in the murder of Cashona Tate, who was a day shy of her 40th birthday when she was found shot to death inside her Charlotte apartment.
According to WBTV television, Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers responded May 15 to a “check the welfare call” at a Charlotte apartment complex, and Tate’s body was discovered inside. She had reportedly been shot to death.
Wiggins, who had relatives in Atmore, reportedly fled to Lower Alabama immediately after the slaying to hide from authorities.
Once it was confirmed that the murder suspect had left North Carolina, a federal warrant was issued charging Wiggins with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, bringing the FBI into the case. Agents tracked him down to the Liberty Street mobile home where he was discovered and ultimately shot.
SWAT officers and negotiators were called to the scene and made contact with the fugitive by telephone. The telephone was delivered to Wiggins through a kitchen window by a robotic arm on the front of an armored vehicle.
Wiggins apparently enjoyed his moment in the spotlight, despite the fact that he was surrounded by a small army of FBI officers trained in special weapons and tactics.
He stood at times just inside the door to his former hiding place as he talked with SWAT-team negotiators. The accused killer frequently blew kisses and waved to a large crowd that gathered near the site of the standoff, including at least one relative who loudly encouraged Wiggins several times to give himself up.
He eventually came out of the mobile home, a shirt wrapped around his right arm, possibly concealing a weapon. Authorities have neither confirmed nor denied that Wiggins had a weapon when G-men fired at least six shots in his direction as he reportedly tried to run from them.
Federal officers tried to revive the mortally wounded suspect but were unsuccessful.
Jewell told reporters that, per standard FBI procedure, a shooting incident review team, led by FBI’s Inspection Division, “will interview witnesses and gather information for a presentation to the Shooting Incident Review (SIR) group.”
The review team is comprised of FBI personnel and those from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“SIR examines all information and determines the reasonableness and application of deadly force, in accordance with the Department of Justice’s deadly force policy and law,” he said.
The results of the investigation will be provided to the local district attorney’s office and to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Section, for review,” Jewell added.
The SAC also announced that a “positive fingerprint match” had been made, all but confirming that the person who was shot is Wiggins. Federal investigators will await further confirmation by forensics specialists.
The FBI man thanked Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks and Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson for each agency’s assistance in the aftermath of the fatal shooting.
“We were just there to help out at the end, after it was over,” the sheriff said. “We didn’t actually play a part in it.”
Brooks said APD pretty much followed suit, with one exception.
“This was an FBI operation,” he said. “We assisted the FBI afterward with crowd control, and we have continued to follow protocol by keeping an officer on-site while (FBI agents) are processing evidence.”
Note: Atmore News staff member Ditto Gorme was the first member of the media on the scene and was a valuable source for this article.