Deputies use drone with infrared to bust man with meth after 10-mile chase in Sampson County, officials say

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NEWTON GROVE, N.C. (WNCN) — Deputies using a drone with an infrared camera caught a man with meth. He had led authorities on a car chase and fled into a field in Sampson County Thursday night, officials said.

The incident began just after 6 p.m. when deputies tried to stop the driver of an SUV for a vehicle registration violation along U.S. 13 near Maxton Bass Road, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The driver of the 1999 GMC Yukon, which was pulling a trailer, did not stop for deputies and took off north on U.S. 13 into Newton Grove toward Wayne County, the news release said.

After the driver went about 10 miles in the chase, he got to Friday Road, and drove into a field and then took off running, deputies said.

Soon, deputies set up a parameter and later called in a drone with FLIR (forward-looking infrared) to find the driver in some nearby woods, the news release said.

“He was located almost immediately after the drone was deployed,” Sampson County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Marcus Smith said in an email.

Once he was found, deputies closed in and took the suspect into custody without incident, the news release said.

Justin Daniel Vernon, 30, who lives in the county about 2 miles northwest of Clinton, was charged with felony flee to elude, possession of methamphetamines, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to register vehicle, and careless and reckless driving.

Vernon also did not have car insurance and was driving with his license revoked, deputies said.

The sheriff’s office purchased the drone with a special grant and help from South River Electric, the news release said.

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