Sweetwater, Tenn., man charged in McMinn County carjacking

Brandon McGrail

An Etowah, Tenn., man was found Friday night lying injured on a road east of town after he said an acquaintance pulled out a gun, demanded money and a struggle led to a crash.

Around 9:30 p.m. Friday, Benjamin Crofts was found injured on County Road 879, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said.

photo Brandon McGrail

Crofts told law enforcement officials he was giving an acquaintance, 25-year-old Brandon McGrail, a ride.

Crofts said McGrail threatened him with a gun, demanding money. A struggle then ensued as they drove along County Road 879, also known as Baker Road, until Crofts crashed into a barn.

County Road 879 is a desolate, one-lane, partially graveled road that connects county roads 475 and 875 on the edge of the Cherokee National Forest between U.S. Highway 411 and the Conasauga community. The half-mile-long road has only two homes on it and a couple of older barns that are very near the edge of the road.

"Croft had managed to get out of the car and McGrail had left the scene," Guy said.

The deputies "collected evidence and took warrants on Mr. McGrail," Guy said. "The victim's car and the firearm were recovered and processed for evidence, and the officers used social media to locate McGrail in Monroe County where he was taken into custody."

Meanwhile, Crofts was taken to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries, Guy said. According to McMinn County Jail records, McGrail was listed as homeless but has a Sweetwater, Tenn., address.

On Monday, jail records listed McGrail with felony charges of vehicular assault, carjacking and aggravated robbery. He's being held on $168,000 bond.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.