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Car thief escapes high-speed chase

Officers have identified a suspect from a high-speed chase Friday afternoon that was called off when it reached downtown McMinnville, allowing the driver to escape.

Arrest warrants have been taken against Howard Eugene Brown, wanted for stealing two vehicles and nearly hitting a deputy who was on foot attempting to set out spike strips.

“He swerved over two lanes of traffic to intentionally try to hit our deputy and Cory Knowles was lucky to get out of the way,” said Sheriff Jackie Matheny. “We wanted to catch him but it was crazy the way he was driving. Officers called off the pursuit because of how dangerous it was and he was able to get away. Through the course of our investigation, we developed him as a suspect and we’ve taken out warrants against him. He’s on the run.”

Matheny says arrest warrants charge Brown with driving on a revoked license, reckless endangerment, evading arrest, aggravated assault, and two counts of theft for two vehicles he allegedly stole.

The chase began to unfold Friday when officers, acting on a tip, discovered a Dodge Durango in a barn off Underwood Road. Brown is believed to have stolen the Durango from Maury County.

Brown reportedly ditched the Durango and is believed to have stolen a blue Honda Accord in Warren County. Officers were on the lookout for the stolen car when investigator Steven Carpenter spotted it in the Centertown area. However, the suspect refused to stop.

Matheny said Lt. Knowles was in the process of putting down spike strips in the Centertown area when the Honda made a deliberate line toward him.

The suspect continued toward McMinnville, driving at high speeds and jeopardizing lives as he traveled on the wrong side of Nashville Highway at one point. McMinnville officers blocked the highway to thru traffic around Newtown in hopes of preventing a head-on collision.

Spike strips were thrown down again in an effort to stifle the velocity of the speeding Honda, but the suspect was somehow able to make it past the spike strips without damage to his tires.

Officers called off the chase once the suspect made the turn on West Main Street in front of Hardee’s out of concern for public safety in the congested downtown area. The vehicle was last spotted on Viola Road on Friday afternoon.

Matheny said the suspect does have a local connection as he has caught the attention of law enforcement in the past.

“He’s been a suspect here in a previous case, although he was never charged,” said Matheny.

Anyone with information about Brown’s whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department at 473-8738.