|Driver eludes authorities in high-speed morning chase|
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
Sept. 28, 2006 - It wasn't the General Lee, but a man driving a Dodge Charger rented in Illinois was able to evade local law enforcement officers after leading them on a chase over Interstate 30 and the backroads of Hopkins and Franklin counties early this morning.
The pursuit began shortly before 12:30 this morning when Sulphur Springs Police Lt. Buddy Williams, working along with SSPD Sgt. Jason Ricketson in separate patrol cars, noticed a gray Dodge Charger speed past him at the 111 mile marker on Interstate 30. When Williams pulled in behind the car to initiate a traffic stop, the driver increased speed and continued east instead of pulling over.
Williams continued to follow behind the car, which at one point was running upwards of 120 miles per hour, according to officers. Ricketson pulled in behind Williams, and the pair followed the Charger, driven by a black male, on I-30 east to Brashear. The chase continued to the 116 exit in Brashear, then onto the service road. The car was traveling so fast, according to Williams, officers were "just able to keep his tail lights in sight."
Meanwhile, as the chase neared Sulphur Springs, another city police officer set up at Crossroads Travel Center in an attempt to head off the car. The driver evaded the police officer, however, by getting back onto the interstate.
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Bill Reese set up at the 127 mile marker, ready to set out spikes to stop the car. But the driver took the 126 exit, heading south on College Street and on down FM 1870, where Hopkins County sheriff's deputies and other troopers entered the high speed chase, Williams said.
As the car continued to zoom down FM 1870, another trooper headed east on State Highway 11 east from Sulphur Springs in an attempt to head him off. However, due to the speed at which the vehicle traveled, the officers lost sight of the car near SH 11 and FM 1870. After a search of the area failed to yield the car, the pursuit was terminated, but not for long.
About 5 minutes later, the chase was reinstated when an off-duty deputy traveling in his personal vehicle on FM 69 spotted the Charger headed north toward I-30 in Brinker.
Ricketson and deputies attempted to set up at the I-30 east entrance ramp off FM 69, but the car, instead of heading east to get back on the highway, crossed the overpass, then headed west along I-30 back toward Sulphur Springs with HCSO, SSPD and DPS officials in pursuit.
When officers tried to head him off in town, the car took the 127 exit and crossed south over the interstate and turned east again. DPS Trooper David Reynolds headed for the Sulphur Springs Country Club overpass, anticipating dropping road spikes on I-30 just before the speeding car went under the bridge. However, the Dodge headed east on the service road instead of I-30, and Reynolds was not able to get up to the service road before the car passed him.
Ricketson again took the lead in the pursuit, and Franklin County authorities were contacted as the chase began to quickly head toward the county line. Franklin County sheriff's deputies set up at FM 900 with spikes, but the car turned south at the exit heading toward Greenpond
At that point all officers lost sight of the Charger, but continued to scour the area and nearby county roads before calling off the search.
The car was later spotted by Mount Vernon authorities traveling north on State Highway 37. Authorities pursued the vehicle past the downtown square in Mount Vernon before losing sight of it again. It was also later spotted on FM 21 in Franklin County, but officers there again soon lost sight of it, ending the chase.
"He got away from us," Williams said Wednesday morning. "We contacted the rental agency and found out that the vehicle had been rented to a female."
Williams said authorities were able to determine that the woman who gave rental authorities an address for a Chicago suburb was definitely not the driver. They then contacted the sheriff's department for the Chicago suburb to pass the information regarding the vehicle and pursuit on to their narcotics division "in case the car was loaded down with dope or illegal substances" and turns up there.
Officers have no idea why the man fled, but suspect the pursuit was not the man's first due to the skill with which he handled the vehicle at high speeds on presumably unfamiliar roads. They also believe the car was outfitted with a GPS system which helped him navigate unfamiliar areas and continue to seemingly easily and quickly find routes back to the interstate, as well as a police scanner, which would have allowed him to take quick action to evade officers, spikes and road blocks, according to Williams.
"Throughout the whole pursuit, all of the officers were aware that the pursuit would continue only as long as he didn't turn toward Sulphur Springs and residential areas or encounter congested traffic," the police lieutenant said, noting that citizens and officer safety were always considered top priority to the chase. "If at any time he headed toward town or heavy traffic, we would have terminated and not pursued him."