Schools reopen in Roanoke amid manhunt for Marine deserter

Virginia News

ROANOKE, Va. (AP/WFXR) — Schools are reopening in Roanoke on Friday as a manhunt continues for a Marine deserter wanted in a murder case.

Roanoke City Public Schools closed on Thursday when police learned Michael Alexander Brown may have been spotted in town. The 22-year-old combat engineer is wanted for questioning in the death of his mother’s boyfriend, 54-year-old Rodney Brown.

Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones said Brown may have been tapping on the window of his grandmother’s home in Roanoke. He’s believed to be armed and considered very dangerous. A recreational vehicle he was believed to have been driving was destroyed by police before they discovered he wasn’t inside.

Police examine a stolen RV after ramming it multiple times with an armored vehicle while searching for a Marine deserter who is wanted for questioning in a murder case, in Roanoke, Va. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)

Residents are still being advised to report any suspicious activity, but city officials have lifted a shelter-in-place order.

From helicopters in the air to dogs on the ground, Thursday’s extensive search stretched far and wide.

Roanoke police centered their search in the area around Patrick Henry High School on Grandin Road. That search expanded to several side streets in surrounding neighborhoods and there was a warning for residents there to shelter in place until it was lifted around 3:30 p.m.

“This has been a very dynamic response by even more agencies than we see represented behind me,” Chief Jones said. “We want to make sure that the citizens are safe, not only in Roanoke, the Roanoke Valley and the surrounding jurisdictions.”

Chief Jones says they believe Brown is on foot and may be looking for other modes of transportation to get out of the area.

“So folks need to understand this is not the day to leave your vehicle running on the convenience store lot. Or not the day to be offering strangers rides if you don’t know them.”

TIM JONES, ROANOKE CITY POLICE CHIEF

The RV Brown was believed to have been traveling in was found at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church. Junior Warden for the church, Bobby Ballance, says it had been there since Wednesday morning.

“It was very benign, a camper sitting in the parking lot. It was odd. Very odd to say the least,” said Ballance.

Officers searched the camper. They found weapons, but no sign of Brown.

It’s something that had people in the area on edge, like Bonnie Taylor. She was running errands and going to appointments during the search.

“It’s very concerning because you just don’t know when you might be shot at,” said Taylor.

And business owner Andrea Reid Waide says this doesn’t compare to other things they’ve seen in the area.

“This is pretty unusual. We’ve had some pretty interesting things happen over the years. A bank robbery across the street, We’ve had some other issues, but this is probably the biggest and hopefully will not last very long,” said Reid’s Fine Furnishing owner.

During the search and shelter in place, several stores were closed, but not all. Reid Waide decided to open.

“We’ve been here 24 years. I kind of figured with all the police presences, and the FBI and the sheriff’s department, and all the other law enforcement folks that were in the area, that the gentleman would no longer be in the area,” said Reid Waide.

Whether he’s in the area or not, his family and an attorney hired to represent him, are urging Brown to turn himself in.

“I don’t want to see him end up getting killed. I don’t think anyone does,” said Defense Attorney Deborah Caldwell-Bono.

“Right now they just want to get him in custody, that’s their goal. And my goal is to see that it’s done safely.”

The reward for information leading to Brown’s arrest stands at $10,000.

He is considered armed and dangerous and anyone who sees him or with any information about his whereabouts is asked to call 911.

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