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Man leads police on tri-county chase
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Howard Eugene Brown, 35, shown here just seconds before he crashed his vehicle while being pursued by police, led authorities from three counties on a car-and-foot chase last Wednesday before being apprehended at his home in Smithville. - photo by Photo by Reed Vanderpool
A Smithville man who evaded police across three counties last Wednesday was captured at his home after an investigation by the sheriff’s department determined that authorities from other counties were looking for the wrong man.Despite the case of mistaken identity, Howard Eugene Brown, 35, was taken into custody while at home with his wife after he wrecked the truck and fled into the woods on foot on Bright Hill Road.According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, the chase began just after noon, when a K-9 unit in Van Buren County stopped to check on a black Dodge Dakota that was already stopped on the side of the road.Thinking Brown may have been having car trouble, the Van Buren County lawman pulled in behind the truck and activated his blue lights.Brown reportedly got out of the truck and approached the officer, and when asked if he was having trouble, Brown said that he had pulled over because he didn't want to text while driving.A computer check of the license plate on the truck, which was registered to another person, reportedly revealed that the owner had no drivers license, at which point Brown leapt back into the truck and attempted to escape. The Van Buren County officer pursued him onto Highway 111 north into White County, and then west on Highway 70 from toward DeKalb.White County authorities joined the pursuit, notifying DeKalb County authorities 12:43 p.m. that the pursuit was approaching DeKalb County at 12:43 p.m.While city police and sheriff’s deputies were setting up a roadblock at the intersection of West Broad Street and Congress Boulevard, the Dakota turned onto Evins Mill Road, escaping the blockade.Officers from all three counties continued the chase on Evins Mill Road to Cripps Lane, and then onto Bright Hill Road.Quick thinking from off-duty state trooper Dewaine Jennings aided in ending the chase.When Jennings, who was at his home on Bright Hill Road, heard about the approaching pursuit, he apparently retrieved a spike strip from his patrol car and placed it in front of his house.The truck hit the spike strip and at least one of the tires deflated.The truck then struck a guardrail, bringing the car chase to a halt.Ray said Brown left the truck, jumped the guardrail and vanished into the woods on foot.Members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Smithville Police Department, K-9 units from Van Buren and Putnam counties and the Tennessee Highway Patrol began searching for the fugitive.Dogs reportedly 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 trail was lost.Brown allegedly crossed the highway and walked the short distance to his home on Green Acre Drive.While Van Buren County authorities thought the suspect in the pursuit was another man, Ray Underwood, the sheriff said that he had reservations concerning the suspect after viewing the video from a camera in the Van Buren County vehicle.The video shows the suspect getting out of the vehicle and escaping on foot after the collision, but Ray said while the video was somewhat blurred, it appeared to him that the man was not Underwood. When the sheriff’s investigation pointed to Brown as a suspect, officers went to Brown's home to serve an existing violation of probation warrant on him.While authorities found Brown at home, they said that his vehicle was not there, and they noticed that Brown had scratches on his body.The suspect's wife reportedly told investigators that Brown said he had been to Dunlap that day, and encountered a passing police pursuit on the way home that forced him to abandon the truck after he was forced off the road.