The search for Michael Alexander Brown caused Roanoke City Schools to be closed Thursday and the Grandin Road area was placed on high alert.
Authorities believe Brown, a 22-year-old U.S. Marine deserter wanted in Franklin County in the death of his mother’s boyfriend, was trying to reach out to his grandmother and mother when a neighbor spotted him near a Raleigh Court house early Thursday morning.
The U.S. Marshals Service learned Sunday night that Brown might be driving a recreational vehicle near Clarendon County, South Carolina, about four hours southeast of Camp Lejeune (North Carolina), where he had been stationed as a U.S. Marine until leaving his post last month.
According to a Nov. 14 press release by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the RV was spotted in Clarendon County, SC.
Later that evening, U.S. Marshals observed an enclosed trailer abandoned on the side of the road on Governor Richardson Road in Clarendon County. Closer inspection of the trailer revealed the 2008 black Lincoln Town Car, a vehicle Brown had been reportedly driving in earlier reports, inside. Investigators secured the vehicle and obtained a search warrant.
The RV was discovered by police just after midnight Thursday morning in the parking lot of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church on Grandin Road as an extensive search for Brown got underway in the area. The right side of the vehicle was torn open and police remained nearby.
The search, aided by multiple agencies and a helicopter, was launched after someone called 911 around 4 a.m. to report that someone was tapping on the windows of a Tillet Road house.
Police alerted residents within a half-mile of Patrick Henry High School to remain in their homes and lock their doors.
Roanoke City Schools were closed for the day and employees were told not to come to work. Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones said at a 7 a.m. news conference that police took those precautions because they believed Brown was in the area, probably on foot and searching for a new mode of transportation.
During a 1 p.m. news conference, Jones said Brown’s grandmother lives at that house and they believe he was trying to contact her and his mother.
“Family,” Jones said when asked why Brown might return to the Roanoke Valley. “I think family is what brought him.”
Brown’s relatives made an appeal this morning urging him to turn himself in safely. “We would underscore that,” Jones said. “We want to see this to a peaceful resolution.”
Brown can contact authorities to arrange for a safe surrender, Jones added.
Brown is believed to be on foot and might be looking for new means of transportation. Authorities said they believe he’s acting alone. The public is asked to be vigilant and cautious.
Multiple law enforcement agencies in the area continued working with city police on a joint search and investigation, Jones said, including Roanoke County police, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Marshall’s Service.
The investigation was still ongoing as of press time.
Brown is wanted in the Sunday shooting of Rodney Wilfred Brown, 54, of Hardy. Michael Brown is the son of Rodney Brown’s live-in girlfriend, Franklin County officials have said.
Police are unsure of the motive in the killing.
The shooting occurred at a home on Woodthrush Circle and was reported at noon Saturday by a relative of Rodney Brown, police have said.
Brown is described as 6 feet tall, weighing 145 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Jones said he’s possibly wearing a black, waist-length coat.
He’s a former U.S. Marine and combat engineer who was last stationed at Camp Lejeune according to authorities. He deserted his post sometime in October and has been seen in and around Franklin County over the past two weeks.
Brown is a 2016 graduate of Franklin County High School, and a member of the JROTC at the school. Jon Crutchfield, FCHS principal, recalled Brown as an “average kid.”
“He was just a normal kid,” he said. “He didn’t stand out one way or another. He wasn’t an athlete or anything like that but he also wasn’t a kid who was in trouble a lot either.”
In addition to the charges issued in Franklin County, the U.S. Marshals Service said he is now charged with a federal count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Editor Briana Barker contributed to this story.