Bristol man faces charges following 2-state police pursuit

Published 6:53 pm Thursday, June 1, 2017

A police pursuit that began in Avery County, N.C., ended in Carter County Wednesday afternoon and a Bristol man faces charges in connection with the incident.

Officers of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Howard Leonard, 53, of 1811 6th St. Extension, Bristol, and charged him with felony evading arrest by a motor vehicle and violation of the habitual motor offender law.

According to police reports, around 3:20 p.m. on Wednesday, the Carter County Sheriff’s Office was asked to assist in the pursuit of a white utility van that was involved in the armed robbery of a hardware store in Avery County, N.C. Officers with the Avery County, N.C., Sheriff’s Office, began the pursuit and notified the Carter County Sheriff’s Office that the pursuit was crossing over the state line into Roan Mountain.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“As the pursuit left Roan Mountain, Sgt. (David) Tranbarger attempted to deploy Stop Sticks in the area of Victory Baptist Church on Highway 19E which was unsuccessful,” said CCSO Lt. Derrick Hamm in his report on the incident. “I then setup at Fork Mountain Road and Highway 19E in an attempt to deploy Stop Sticks and this attempt was also unsuccessful.”

At the same location Hamm set up his Stop Sticks, CCSO Deputy Jenna Markland also deployed a set of Stop Sticks, but the van was able to miss the second set of sticks as well according to reports.

A third attempt to deploy Stop Sticks was made by Deputy Tylor Johnson in the area of Gap Creek Road and Highway 19E, and this time the van was not able to swerve and completely avoid them which led to the passenger side front tire deflating.

“In the are of Highway 19E and Highway 321 intersection Deputy Johnny Roberts then got in front of the pursued vehicle and attempted a rolling road block, which was also unsuccessful,” Hamm said. “At this time Sheriff (Dexter) Lunceford then got on the radio and asked if any units were P.I.T. certified, at which time I advised that I was.”

The P.I.T. Maneuver, or Pursuit Intervention Technique, is a pursuit tactic used by law enforcement in which a pursuing car can force a fleeing car to abruptly turn sideways, causing the driver to lose control and stop.

“I then reconfirmed across the radio if he was advising to perform a P.I.T. Maneuver on the fleeing vehicle due to it being a large van,” Hamm said. “Sheriff Lunceford then advised if the traffic and speed conditions were correct for the P.I.T. Maneuver to proceed.”

“We then entered into the Double Bridges, and at this time the speeds had slowed to approximately 45 mph and there was no traffic,” Hamm added. “Once these conditions were present I proceeded to perform a P.I.T. Maneuver to the passenger side rear corner of the fleeing vehicle, which spun the vehicle into the right-hand concrete barrier of the roadway.”

Once the vehicle was stopped, Hamm said officers were able to detain and arrest the driver of the van, who was later identified as Leonard.

After getting the vehicle stopped, Hamm said officers also learned more about the incident which initiated the pursuit in North Carolina.

“It was later found out that the suspect that was being pursued had stolen a lawnmower and was not involved in a robbery,” Hamm said.

According to police reports, the pursuit reached top speeds of approximately 80-90 mph while in Carter County.

Leonard will face the charges of felony evading arrest by a motor vehicle and violation of the habitual motor offender law here in Carter County before being extradited to North Carolina to face whatever charges are filed by the Avery County, N.C., Sheriff’s Office. Leonard remains held at the Carter County Detention Center without bond until his arraignment in Carter County General Sessions Court.