The Tennessee Highway Patrol said a 15-year-old boy is to blame for a high-speed chase through several counties Tuesday night.
Sgt. Randall Martin with THP said the chase lasted almost two hours and is the longest continuous pursuit in the area's history.
"It started in Roane County on Interstate 40 with an attempted traffic stop for speeding. Then the driver refused to pull over and sped away," said Martin. "There was no way they had any intention at all of stopping. Their intent was to flee and run from whatever it was they had done. They hit speeds of over 100 miles per hour at times."
Martin said there were two juveniles in the car from Mississippi. The driver was a 15-year-old male and the passenger a female whose age was not released. The car was identified as a stolen vehicle.
"The drivers had the car without permission. We were told the female passenger was a runaway." Martin added, "She called home during the pursuit and told her mother what was going on and that she wanted to get out of the car. However, the driver was not willing to stop."
The chase began in Roane County and continued east into Knoxville. The driver then exited near Magnolia Avenue, navigated through areas near Buffat Mill Road and Whittle Springs Road, and eventually headed west on I-640.
Troopers terminated the chase near Campbell Station Road due to safety concerns as they approached congested traffic at the site of a tractor trailer crash on I-40. The trooper in pursuit lost sight of the suspects but radioed the description and tags to other units.
"The officer sent out a BOLO (be on the lookout) with partial tags. I was at the scene of the crash and saw a vehicle that matched the description. The car was rolling along with the rest of the traffic, but the driver and passenger were stiffly facing forward and slumped down in the vehicle. An officer then tried to pull the vehicle over and the chase resumed again," said Martin.
The driver of the vehicle sped down I-75 South and then turned around near the Lenoir City exit. A truck driver in an 18-wheeler, Shaun Parker, was at an intersection at the northbound exit when he saw the speeding car fleeing officers and heading towards intersection traffic.
"It all happened in a split second, but I decided to turn my truck to block the car from going into traffic. The car hit the front of my truck and did some damage, but the car kept going and got back on the interstate," said Parker. "I think my truck has about $3,000 damage to the front end, but it was still able to drive. Lenoir City Police helped me, we filed a report, then I hit the road again and made it to Memphis for my delivery. The ride was a little bumpy, but I got there."
The next twist and only damage to THP property in the record-long chase took place on Kingston Pike. The driver had exited the interstate at Watt Road and headed eastbound on Kingston Pike. Near Farragut High School, THP attempted to stop the vehicle with spike strips.
"Our officer put the strips out, then saw one of our own vehicles headed his way. He tried to pull the strips out of the way. They avoided the passenger-side tires in time, but both wheels on the driver's side hit the strips. Other than a couple of flat tires, there wasn't any damage to the car and the officer was not hurt," said Martin.
The chased driver avoided the spike strips, turned north on Pellissippi Parkway, turned onto Oak Ridge Highway, and eventually made his way back onto eastbound I-40. The fleeing vehicle took the 407 exit and made it all the way to Sevierville before turning onto rural roads. The vehicle eventually stopped after it ran off the edge of a curve in the road. Nobody was injured during the chase.
"We're just thankful nobody was hurt," said Martin. "We followed all policy and protocol for this kind of pursuit."
Martin said the driver's vehicle still had half a tank of gas when it ran off the road and the chase stopped.
The juveniles' identities were not released. THP said they potentially face criminal charges in four counties, although exact charges have not been released. As of Wednesday evening, the minors were being held at the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center in Knox County awaiting transfer back to Mississippi where they also face the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Rules of the Road: Emergency Vehicles
If you are driving and suddenly find yourself in the path of emergency vehicles involved in a police-chase or other emergency situation, Tennessee law requires you to move over and get out of the way.
Sgt. Martin said you should always move over to your right and allow emergency vehicles to pass on your left. That is the case even if you are already in the far-right lane.
"You have to pull off on the shoulder. Even if it is a three-lane highway, you need to pull off on the shoulder [instead of letting the emergency vehicles pass you in the center lane]. You need to make sure there's not a chance that your vehicle is going to come into contact with any of the vehicles that need to get down the road," said Martin. "Obviously, sometimes it is physically impossible to go to your right, but that should be your first choice to make sure you do not get in the way of a fire truck, ambulance, or law enforcement."
Martin said the public should never get involved in a police pursuit.
"You shouldn't try to block the road or do anything else that puts yourself at risk. Your intentions may be admirable, but emergency responders are trained professionals. The best thing you can do to help is move over to keep yourself and others safe," said Martin.
Previous story, Tuesday, 11:45 PM.
A high-speed pursuit led law enforcement officers on a tour of Knoxville-area interstates Tuesday night.
TDOT Smartway cameras showed troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol chasing a suspect along I-40, I-640, and I-275 from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. The suspect exited and re-entered the interstate several times.
At one point, the suspect drove through a section of I-40 in West Knox County where traffic was backed up from an earlier crash involving two tractor trailers. Using the shoulder of the road, the suspect was able to elude capture.
The chase ended around 11:00 nearly 50 miles away in Sevierville when the suspect stopped on Hardin Lane, according to THP.
No other details about the pursuit were released Tuesday night.