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Troopers: Driver dies after crash

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CLAYTON — State officials are investigating the death of a man driving a stolen tow truck who allegedly started a gunfight with state troopers during a highway chase.

The State Bureau of Investigation is conducting an independent criminal probe, N.C. Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Chris Knox said in a Monday night news release.

State troopers tried to stop the stolen tow truck around 4:23 p.m. Monday on Black Creek Road outside Smithfield. Knox said local law enforcement officers had requested assistance.

“As the pursuit traveled onto U.S. 70 Business West, the driver of the stolen tow truck began shooting at pursuing troopers who returned fire as they neared the city of Clayton,” Knox said in the release.

The N.C. Highway Patrol did not name the driver late Monday.

As the chase continued, Knox said the tow truck veered across U.S. 70’s eastbound lanes and slammed into trees on the adjacent highway shoulder. The driver was pronounced dead at the crash scene. Troopers said the cause of death was not immediately known.

The N.C. Highway Patrol requested an SBI probe into the incident. Knox said the Highway Patrol’s internal affairs unit is also conducting an internal investigation, which is agency protocol in any shooting involving a state trooper.