Bridges surrenders: Police capture fugitive in church basement after armed standoff
SALISBURY — Fugitive John Knox Bridges surrendered to Salisbury police Saturday night after an armed standoff at a Maupin Avenue church that he had been attending for about a year.
Bridges had barricaded himself inside the church basement with a gun, according to authorities. About a dozen police officers with a K-9 surrounded the back of the church, some brandishing weapons during the standoff. No shots were fired.
Maupin Avenue ARP Church is located at the corner of Fulton Street and Maupin Avenue in Fulton Heights, a residential neighborhood where Bridges used to live.
Bridges had been missing since Friday, when he failed to show up for a sentencing hearing in Charlotte as part of a plea deal. He admitted to bilking friends and colleagues, including the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation, out of $2.3 million.
During the standoff, police escorted Bridges’ mother, Jeanie Bridges, into the church basement. Less than 30 minutes later, an officer called out, “We’ve got him.”
Knox Bridges emerged handcuffed and was led to a waiting police cruiser. His mother accompanied him to the Rowan County Detention Center, where he is being held until Monday, when the FBI is expected to take custody of him.
Jeanie Bridges is a long-time member of Maupin Avenue ARP Church.
Five stunned church members watched the standoff from a distance Saturday night. After Bridges’ arrest, they said he was a kind man who attended church regularly and cut the lawn every week.
“He just didn’t want to be locked up,” one member said. “I can’t blame him.”
Although it was not clear how long Bridges had been inside the church, one police officer told church members that little had been disturbed.
“We didn’t clean up where he slept, but we have everything else,” the officer said.
Several church members asked the community to pray for Bridges and his mother.
“He is one of God’s children, so we look out for him,” one member said.
“We ask everybody to pray for him,” another added.
Prior to the confrontation with police, Knox Bridges was last seen in his mother’s charcoal-gray Volvo V-70 station wagon. Saturday night, the car was parked in the church parking lot, which apparently alerted police to the possibility that Bridges was holed up inside.
After Bridges failed to show up for court Friday, a police dispatch said he should be considered “armed and dangerous.” Bridges had threatened to harm himself or law enforcement, according to scanner traffic.
Bridges had a near-fatal incident with police in August 2011 at his mother’s home on South Ellis Street, where he lived. In an apparent suicide attempt, he shot himself with a shotgun at close range after an officer used a stun gun to subdue him.
After he was released from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, Bridges was charged with defrauding co-workers and longtime friends of millions.
The former Charlotte resident set up elaborate schemes and stole $600,000 from the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation while he served on the foundation’s board.
He was also accused of taking $600,000 from North Carolina fresco artist Ben Long.
As part of the now-defunct plea agreement, Bridges was to pay full restitution to his victims.
He pleaded guilty in February 2012 to money laundering and securities fraud. Under the plea agreement with prosecutors, Bridges was expected to serve between five and six years in prison.
A federal court official said once a suspect skips sentencing, prosecutors are no longer bound by the terms of a plea agreement.
Bridges now could face sentencing under the federal guidelines for his crimes, which carry a maximum of 30 years.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.