The man who led authorities on a three county pursuit Wednesday afternoon has been arrested thanks to an investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.
35 year old Howard Eugene Brown of Green Acre Drive, Smithville was found at home with his wife Wednesday evening. He had apparently returned home on foot after crashing and bailing out of the pickup truck he was driving on Bright Hill Road. Brown was taken into custody by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, who had developed him as a suspect during an investigation. The sheriff's department already had an active violation of probation warrant against Brown.
After Brown was taken to the DeKalb County Jail Wednesday night, Van Buren County authorities were notified and they returned to Smithville to interview Brown. During the questioning, Brown admitted that he was the man they were chasing in the pursuit. Van Buren County officials plan to charge Brown with driving under the influence, reckless endangerment, and evading arrest. Other charges may also be brought against him in the case. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Brown is on probation for criminal impersonation, theft, and aggravated criminal trespassing.
Sheriff Ray told WJLE that the pursuit began in Van Buren County Wednesday afternoon after a K-9 officer there, driving a Dodge Ram 4 x 4 pickup, stopped to check on a black Dodge Dakota pickup truck that had stopped on the side of the road. "The Van Buren County K-9 officer was driving by and saw a truck sitting on the side of the road," said Sheriff Ray. "It was a black Dodge Dakota pickup. He (officer) thought it was a stranded motorist. He (officer) pulled in behind the truck and activated his blue lights. The driver of the truck got out and approached the officer. The officer asked the man if he was having trouble. The man said no, that he didn't want to text while driving. The officer ran a (computer) check of the license plate on the truck and asked for a driver's license (computer) check based on the license plate information. The check revealed no drivers license. The driver then jumped in the truck and took off," said Sheriff Ray.
After his arrest, Brown told investigators that he had just finished shooting up drugs right before the officer stopped to check on him, according to Sheriff Ray.
The Van Buren County K-9 officer initiated a pursuit which turned onto Highway 111 north into White County and then west on Highway 70 from Sparta. White County authorities joined Van Buren County in the chase and notified DeKalb central dispatch at 12:43 p.m. that the pursuit was approaching DeKalb County. Members of the Sheriff's Department and Smithville Police Department were planning to set up at the intersection of West Broad Street and Congress Boulevard when word came that the pursuit had reached Smithville but had turned from Highway 70 onto Evins Mill Road. Local officers then repositioned themselves to other locations hoping to intercept the pursuit.
The chase continued on Evins Mill Road, to Cripps Lane, and then onto Bright Hill Road. An off duty state trooper of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Dewaine Jennings was at his residence on Bright Hill Road when he heard about the approaching pursuit. He got a spike strip from his patrol car and placed it on Bright Hill Road in front of his house. When the truck came speeding by, it hit the spike strip and some of the tires blew out. The truck then sped out of control as it approached the sharp curve on Bright Hill Road and struck a guardrail. The Van Buren County K-9 officer's vehicle also received some minor damage when it too apparently sideswiped the guardrail.
According to Sheriff Ray, after the truck came to a stop, the man (Brown) bailed out the drivers side door of the truck, jumped over the guardrail and disappeared into the woods on foot. A search immediately ensued by officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Smithville Police Department, along with K-9 units from Van Buren and Putnam Counties and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Sheriff Ray said the K-9 dogs picked up the man's scent and followed a trail through the woods to Highway 56 near Harney's Nursery and the New Life United Pentecostal Church, where the dogs lost the scent. Authorities suspect that the man (Brown) crossed the highway and then walked to his home on Green Acre Drive, a short distance away.
Smithville Elementary School, which is in the area of the search, was placed on lock down status until dismissal time at 2:45 p.m. as a precaution. As schools closed for the day, Smithville Police, the Sheriff's Department's School Resource Officer, and constables were nearby monitoring school traffic as parents picked up their children while other students boarded buses to go home.
Initially, Van Buren County authorities thought the suspect in the pursuit was another man, Ray Underwood. Sheriff Ray said he expressed doubts about that after viewing the video from a camera in the Van Buren County's officer's vehicle. After the truck wrecked, the video shows the man getting out of the vehicle and escaping on foot. But Sheriff Ray said the blurry image captured on the video appeared to be someone other than Underwood. He said the man's build did not fit Underwood's profile.
After launching its own investigation and developing Brown as a suspect, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department went to Brown's home on Green Acre Drive to serve the violation of probation warrant on him. Although Brown was home, his vehicle was not there. Investigators noticed that Brown had scratches on his body. Brown's wife told investigators that Brown said he had been to Dunlap that day and had not driven home in the truck. According to her, Brown said he had encountered a passing police pursuit on the way home and apparently had to leave the truck behind after being forced off the road.
The truck Brown was driving is apparently registered to an Hispanic man in Davidson County. Sheriff Ray said Metro-Nashville will be asked to help locate the owner of the truck.
"I am very proud of my department for working throughout the day and well into the night on this case until the one responsible for this senseless crime was arrested," said Sheriff Ray.
"My department and I felt very early on into the investigation that the accused subject (Underwood) was not the individual involved in this crime and with the use of our investigational resources, we not only cleared this individual (Underwood) that was accused of this crime, but was able to apprehend the proper person (Brown)," added Sheriff Ray.