Southeast Tennessee slow-speed pursuit nets two arrests

Southeast Tennessee slow-speed pursuit nets two arrests

January 29th, 2014 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Maurice Albornoz

Denise Lasure

Life moves a little slower around Southeast Tennessee, and that can include the police pursuits.

Around 4 a.m. Saturday, according to a Dayton, Tenn., police incident report, 35-year-old Maurice A. Albornoz and 49-year-old Denise M. Lasure were hanging around Paul's Produce on Iowa Avenue, trying to pop open a soda machine with a crowbar. But a patrol officer spotted their Ford Escape backed up to the front door of Paul's, and soon Albornoz and Lasure drove away.

Eventually, members of the Dayton Police Department and sheriff's offices from Bradley County, Hamilton County and Rhea County would catch the two alleged criminals, but not before a 24-mile drive and a SWAT-team standoff. Dayton police would charge Albornoz and Lasure with several crimes including attempted theft, evading arrest and possession of methamphetamine.

And the two would remain at the Rhea County Jail on Tuesday in lieu of a $75,000 bond.

But first, a chase. Well, Dayton police Chief Chris Sneed said that isn't the best description of the pursuit. The driver of the getaway SUV wasn't racing, he said, just driving at a normal speed, ignoring the flashing lights in the rear-view mirror.

"They basically were following him, and he refused to stop," Sneed said. "Your options are to either keep following him or abandon him."

Officers kept following, from Iowa Avenue to Market Street, Market Street to State Route 60, and State Route 60 to Mount Zion Road. From there, Albornoz and Lasure wove through a couple of more streets before reaching No Pone Valley Road in Georgetown.

The driver rammed the SUV through a fence and steered the vehicle through a field. Then, according to the incident report, Albornoz and Lasure ran into the woods.

A Hamilton County K-9 unit tracked the two to a house at 979 No Pone Valley Road, where Albornoz stacked furniture against the door and told officers he had a knife, Bradley County Sheriff's Office spokesman Bob Gault said. The report does not indicate why Lasure was not inside with Albornoz, but police also arrested her Saturday.

The sheriff's office did not use the full SWAT team, Gault said. Two members who were already on patrol worked the scene, and two other members who were supposed to begin work at 7 a.m. joined them, he said.

The SWAT team threw some sort of gas into the house, according to the incident report, and then officers crawled into the house through a window. Nobody was injured.

Sneed said the standoff did not take a long time -- somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. At the time, officers were not sure what crimes Albornoz and Lasure allegedly committed.

They believed the damage done might have been greater than a damaged soda machine.

"They do more damage tearing up the equipment than the money they get from the machine," Sneed said. "There's usually not a lot of cash in a Coke machine."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.