Authorities in Grundy County, Tennessee, are seeking an inmate who fled custody on a trip to get a COVID-19 test Tuesday and was last seen barefoot and handcuffed wearing an orange jail jumpsuit.
Tracking dogs and the Tennessee Highway Patrol's helicopter were used Tuesday evening to search for 35-year-old Grundy County inmate Anthony Burnette, of Coalmont, Tennessee, who fled from the county health department in Altamont, according to a Grundy County Sheriff's Office statement issued after the escape.
"Burnette had just been transported to the health department and received a COVID test," Sheriff Clint Shrum said Wednesday. Shrum said Burnette is not known to be violent.
The sheriff said he couldn't provide the results of the test because it is protected personal medical information.
Burnette was being held on charges of drug possession and criminal trespassing, according to the statement. He now faces an additional charge of escape, Shrum said.
The Grundy County Health Department is on Main Street in the county seat of Altamont, Tennessee, a tiny town of less than 1,100 people that most county offices call home. The jail where Burnette was being held is just a couple of blocks away.
Woods behind the health department to the east continue for a mile or so before opening up into the 15,500-acre Savage Gulf State Natural Area. Savage Gulf is filled with ravines and mountainous terrain with a system of trails but very few roads. Greeter Falls is the public area nearest to Altamont.
Shrum said the search for Burnette is continuing.
"We are running some leads from tips we have received as well as a small-scale ground search of some areas," he said.
Rain began to fall across the area overnight Tuesday into Wednesday and the National Weather Service is forecasting showers and thunderstorms across the Grundy County region through Thursday night. Low temperatures are expected to be in the upper 50s.
Lt. Bill Miller, spokesperson for Tennessee Highway Patrol, said the agency's helicopter helped in the search on Tuesday and stands ready to help if needed as the search for Burnette continues.
"We are always willing to assist any agency for any need that arises, so we'll be more than happy to assist the Grundy County Sheriff's Office," Miller said. "Our capabilities are long-reaching."
Meanwhile, anyone who has seen Burnette or has information on his whereabouts is asked to call the Grundy County Sheriff's Office at 931-962-3466.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.