published Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Runaway leads Georgia police on high-speed chase

A chase from Whitfield County, Ga., to Hamilton County tonight has landed one officer in the hospital, disabled two police cars and resulted in several shots fired on officers, East Ridge police spokesman Erik Hopkins said.
A chase from Whitfield County, Ga., to Hamilton County tonight has landed one officer in the hospital, disabled two police cars and resulted in several shots fired on officers, East Ridge police spokesman Erik Hopkins said.
Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • Police dash cam chase video of 14-year-old driver
    A 14-year-old runaway from S.C., led Tunnel Hill Police on a high-speed chase Monday, going North on I-75, then east on I-24, before the 22-minute chase came to a stop in East Ridge. Some of the more exciting times of the chase are listed below: 5:40 - Suspect fires shots at Ringgold officer 8:20 - Second car takes the lead position in the chase 9:35 - Chase stops, then continues 10:15 - Suspect rams police car 10:45 - Police cars attempts to stop suspect 13:40 - Semi assists police and attempts to stop suspect 16:25 - Suspect takes the Belvior exit off I-24 17:55 - Suspect attempts to flee on foot Video courtesy of the Tunnel Hill Police Department.

The 14-year-old called his mother from a Mapco parking lot off Interstate 75 in Tunnel Hill, Ga., telling her that he needed gas and, if her credit card wouldn't work, his gun surely would.

A few minutes later Monday night, the teen turned that gun on police, then fled in a red Chevrolet, leading law enforcement on a rampage up I-75 and I-24, leaving three disabled law enforcement vehicles and one injured deputy in his wake, Georgia State Patrol Lt. Don Stultz said.

The teen, who has not been named because he is a juvenile, likely will face 10 felony charges and nine misdemeanors from the Georgia State Patrol alone, Stultz said, plus other felony counts from Whitfield County to Hamilton County.

The juvenile will face prosecution from most, if not all, of the seven departments involved with the chase, including counts of aggravated assault on an officer and felony evading, authorities say. His full list of charges has not yet been determined.

Few, if any, of the officers knew they were dealing with a 14-year-old, but they say it wouldn't have affected their pursuit -- the driver was dangerous no matter how old.

"He knowingly pointed and shot at multiple officers," said Georgia State Trooper Michael Best, who was involved in the chase.

The hunt was on Monday after a Whitfield County dispatcher received a 911 call from another dispatcher in Anderson, S.C., who reported that a teen had stolen his grandfather's car and was headed toward Illinois or Kansas.

Tunnel Hill Police Chief Roy Brunson said a city officer found a vehicle that matched the description of the stolen car in the Mapco at 799 North Varnell Road a little before 8:30 p.m. The teen neither robbed the store nor bought anything, but when he pulled out of the store in the Chevy, the police cruiser followed him.

The suspect pulled into New Hope Church down the road -- authorities aren't clear why -- and the officer pulled in behind him, got out and told him to show his hands, Best said. The teen obeyed for a moment, then his hands disappeared back into the car. When they reappeared, they were gripping a gun.

The officer, who has not been identified, fired a single round and took cover in his car.

The teen raced back to I-75, then flew up the highway at speeds that topped 100 mph, Best said. Patrol cruisers from other law enforcement agencies flooded the highway in pursuit.

The teen opened fire on Ringgold police and rammed a Catoosa County vehicle, sending Deputy James Johnson to the hospital with minor injuries, authorities said.

At some point another Catoosa patrol car crashed but it's not clear what happened, Stultz said.

Because the teen was armed, police were limited in their pursuit techniques.

"Of course, you can't just pull in front of a guy with a gun," Brunson said.

Best was the lead car on the chase as they approached Tennessee, but when he got close to the suspect, the teen slammed on his brakes and Best's cruiser slammed into the rear of the Chevy. The collision damaged both cars, but the chase continued.

Best said he tried to force the teen off the road, but was unable to stop him.

Catoosa dispatchers radioed ahead to Hamilton County, warning them of the approaching chaos. East Ridge police unrolled spike strips across the highway near the stateline, which shredded the suspect's tires, slowing him but not completely stopping him as he continued driving on the rims.

Best's tires were also destroyed, and he was forced to abandon the chase.

"His car was smoking, his tires were flat," Brunson said.

The suspect turned onto I-24, smoke spewing from the engine. He exited at Belvoir Avenue, then abandoned the car near the intersection of North Terrace Road, East Ridge police spokesman Erik Hopkins said.

Police quickly apprehended him in a neighborhood and recovered his weapon from the vehicle.

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