High speed chase ends in wreck, death of one

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yalobusha County Deputy Sheriff Thomas West points to the stolen pickup that law enforcement officers pursued for almost 70 miles on I-55 before it wrecked north of Grenada near the Coffeeville exit. The driver avoided a roadblock at the Batesville North exit by switching into the northbound lanes, traveling south against traffic through the South Batesville interchange before switching back into the southbound lanes. Behind West is his patrol car, damaged when the pickup veered back into traffic after spinning out of control in the median, then crossing back and striking the patrol car.

By John Howell
The dramatic, “all-hell-broke-loose” story about a Friday afternoon police chase through four counties became even more tangled as additional information was pieced together after the weekend.

The pickup, originally stolen in an armed carjacking in Jackson (MS), was initially spotted by a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper in DeSoto County, according to a source close to the investigation who asked not to be identified. The driver of the stolen pickup then led the trooper, joined by DeSoto County sheriff’s deputies, south on Interstate 55.

More law enforcement vehicles joined the chase as the stolen pickup drove south. By the time the vehicles entered Panola County, the caravan had grown into a cacophony of screaming sirens and flashing emergency lights amidst the usual complement of heavy Friday afternoon traffic southbound from Memphis.

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Batesville police, alerted to the fast-moving caravan’s approach, set up just before the southbound exit ramp on the North Batesville exit.

“Their intent was to keep them off the off ramp and coming into the city,” Batesville Police Department Assistant Chief Jimmy McCloud said. “The last thing you want is to have a chase through the city.

BPD officers also prepared to deploy “stop sticks” — spiked planks thrown in front of fleeing vehicles to shred tires. However, somewhere near the Tallahatchie River bridge, the pickup switched lanes and crossed over to the northbound lanes where the driver continued her southbound flight.

Apparently during the lane switch at about 2:45 p.m., two of the stolen vehicle’s male occupants jumped out and were quickly apprehended in the glut of vehicles that had by then stopped in the interstate just north of the southbound off ramp. Southbound traffic bottled up behind the law enforcement vehicles while officers attempted to sort suspects from bystanders.

The Desoto County Sheriff’s Department later identified the men as Jonathan Thompson and Marquis Jackson.

The stolen vehicle continued its upstream flight south with three female occupants, speeding through the South Batesville interchange on the wrong side of the interstate.

The stolen pickup’s driver was able to return to the southbound lane near the Enid Dam exit, sources said. There were reports of shots fired during the chase, and reports of bullet holes in both the stolen truck and police cars. Radio traffic indicated Panola County deputies exchanged rounds with the suspects.

The fleeing truck and pursuing entourage continued south on I-55 into Yalobusha County, where the drivers encountered a heavy downpour from an afternoon thundershower.

Yalobusha County Deputy Sheriff Thomas West got in front of the caravan at the Oakland exit, trying to clear the traffic also flowing south, when the stolen truck caught up with him still traveling at times over 100 MPH. As the caravan neared the Grenada County line, in pouring rain and on tires that may have been damaged by a later stop stick deployment, the stolen vehicle’s driver attempted to pass West’s vehicle in the median. Instead the driver lost control, spun into the median and back into the traffic lane where it struck West’s vehicle.
Yalobusha Sheriff Lance Humphreys said West was not injured in the accident. He also said West’s cruiser kept the truck from striking another car in the right lane, not connected to the chase.

Two occupants of the stolen vehicle either jumped or were ejected and injured. The driver, later identified as Delisha Bradley, was taken into custody. She had been grazed by a round fired during the chase, but her injuries appeared minor. She was transported to MHP headquarters in Batesville for questioning. She was then transported to DeSoto County for booking.

During the initial on-scene investigation at the crash scene on I-55 three Mississippi Highway Patrol vehicles were damaged by a lightning strike from the same thunderstorm. Shortly after the lightning strike two troopers who were nearby were transported to the emergency room as a precaution. The lightning strike ignited one of the cars and fire departments responded. All three cars had to be towed.

At 5:42 p.m. radio reports indicated that a gun believed to have been thrown from the fleeing vehicle had been recovered.

By 8 p.m. the two troopers were released from the hospital after observation and treatment.
At. 9:15 p.m. one of the female passengers died as a result of injuries in the crash.
The driver was initially charged with felony flight and motor vehicle theft. Thompson and Jackson — the two men who jumped out near Batesville — were initially charged with unlawful possession of a motor vehicle. The two remaining passengers were juvenile females and not identified.

Sheriff Dennis Darby told the Panola County Board of Supervisors during their Monday meeting that District Attorney John Champion had met with the law enforcement agencies whose jurisdictions were engaged during the pursuit to determine what additional charges were appropriate. Darby said that the investigation is being conducted under the direction of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI). Darby also told supervisors that the suspects had been wanted on serious charges in Jackson.