Manhunt in Marion County, Tenn., continues as school lockdown lifted

Manhunt in Marion County, Tenn., continues as school lockdown lifted

January 23rd, 2018 by Ben Benton and Emmett Gienapp in Breaking News

WHITWELL, Tenn. — A manhunt is under way in Marion County for a robbery suspect who has been on the run now for a second day after another suspect believed to be his partner was captured on Monday.

Suspect DeWayne Halfacre has been added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Top 10 Most Wanted list.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said around 4:15 p.m. EDT today that the lockdown was being lifted at public schools in Whitwell so all students can go home. Burnett said there was a heavy law enforcement presence at the schools to make sure students' departure is safe.

The schools in Whitwell were also locked down for a time on Monday when the first suspect was captured and the second took off on foot.

Timothy Howell, 51, of Madison, Tenn., was taken into custody on Monday and the man police said is his partner, Halfacre, remains at large and the subject of a massive manhunt in the area between Whitwell and Powells Crossroads in eastern Marion County.

Timothy Howell, 51, of Madison, Tenn., was taken into custody on Monday and the man police said is his partner, DeWayne Halfacre, remains at large and the subject of a massive manhunt in the area between Whitwell and Powells Crossroads in eastern Marion County.

Burnett said that road has been shut down most of the day as Marion County officers, SWAT teams, TBI and ATF agents and officers from Chattanooga and neighboring counties combed the surrounding area for Halfacre, using police tracking dogs on the ground and searchers in the air.

Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopters spent much of the afternoon Tuesday helping with the search, Burnett said, and now a law enforcement helicopter from Georgja equipped with better search technology has joined the search.

Burnett said the two men are also suspects in robbery incidents in Ringgold, Ga., and Rutherford County, Tenn., that happened Monday.

The two-day ordeal began Monday in Marion County when the two men attempted to break into Andy's Market in South Pittsburg but the burglar alarm went off, Burnett said. The initial investigation there led to a vehicle description that was issued to authorities in the area, Burnett said.

A Whitwell officer spotted the vehicle about 4 a.m. CDT and tried to stop it but the suspects sped away until they ended up on a dead-end road and crashed. One of the two, Howell, was taken into custody quickly, but Halfacre has been at large ever since.

Monday's search caused a lockdown at all three schools in Whitwell and Tuesday's revived manhunt led to lockdowns for another day.

A part-time officer who was on his way back from a prisoner transport late Tuesday morning heard a dispatcher relaying information about a man spotted near a church in Whitwell. The part-time officer was nearby and soon spotted the man he believed was the suspect headed toward the home of an elderly woman, Burnett said.

"He was afraid that he was going to break in on her, so he went up there and confronted him [the suspect] and the guy pulled a firearm on him and at some point they had a tussle and the guy got possession of his patrol car," Burnett said.

"About that time the Whitwell officers pulled up and pursued him toward [Powells] Crossroads and at some point a tire blew out and he crashed and he got out and ran up here on the side of a hill," the sheriff said.

As night begins to close in, multiple agencies have reported to and shut down a section of State Route 283 while searchers comb the area for the fugitive.

The suspect now known as Halfacre is thought to be hiding in a wooded area adjacent to the Sequatchie River, and at 3:30 p.m. MarIon County SWAT team members with body armor and rifles could be seen stomping out of the woods back onto State Route 283.

Burnett said he hoped authorities had closed the perimeter around Halfacre.

Commuters traveling on State Highway 28 had to navigate between emergency vehicles and school officials coordinating students' departure from school while the search continued.

Burnett said he was thankful to neighboring agencies for their ongoing help.


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