EDITOR'S NOTE: As of late Thursday afternoon, Jan. 12, officials provided the following updated information:
Carthage Police, Panola County Sheriff’s Officers and other law enforcement agencies, including Texas DPS, on late Thursday afternoon continued to search for a suspect who remained at-large after a high speed chase earlier in the day.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, officials released a statement indicating the sheriff's office and Carthage Police Department are continuing their search for an unidentified suspect who fled on foot following the Jan. 12 morning's pursuit.
“The suspect was last seen in the vicinity of North Saint Mary Street and West College Street,” the statement said.
“The suspect is a black male, approximately 26 to 28 years old, 5'9" to 5' 10", slender build, with short black hair,” officials said. “He was last seen wearing a black hooded shirt, white undershirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes.”
Anyone with information on the suspect is asked to contact law enforcement at 9-1-1.
Panola County Sheriff Cutter Clinton early Thursday afternoon clarified that the third suspect sought after a high speed pursuit reportedly apprehended actually still is at large.
There was some confusion after a video post in which he indicated the third suspect being sought would soon be at the Panola County Jail.
“Two of the suspects are in the jailhouse now and the third will be before too long,” Clinton said in a social media posted statement from the sheriff’s office.
Carthage Police Blake Smith said two of the three suspects in the vehicle were in custody.
Smith sid the high speed pursuit started shortly before 8 a.m. when Panola County officials were alerted to a high speed pursuit which started in Nacogdoches County and was ongoing by officers with the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspect vehicle was on Texas 315 headed from the Mt. Enterprise area headed east toward Carthage, Smith said.
“The car came into town at a high rate of speed and avoided some spike strips deployed at the Loop and 315,” Smith. “The car wrecked out partially at the old Don Juan’s restaurant off the square and was occupied by three black males, two of which bailed out.”
“The other one is at large in the area of Daniels, Davis (streets),” he said late Thursday morning. “There is a heavy police presence over here looking at this time.”
Clinton said at about 7:59 a.m. Panola County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a high speed chase heading east on Texas 315 from Rusk County towards Panola County. He said the pursuit began earlier in Nacogdoches County.
“Panola County deputy and Pct. 2 and 3 deputy constable joined the pursuing Nacogdoches County and Rusk County units and began giving updates,” Clinton said. “The fleeing car was traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour and was passing multiple vehicles in an unsafe manner.”
Spike strips avoided
Panola County deputies set up spike strips on Texas 315 near Southside Baptist Church while Panola County Pct. 1 and 4 Deputy Constable set up spike strips on the Loop around Carthage.
“The suspect’s vehicle managed to avoid the spike strips and intentionally swerved at the deputy constable who discharged his service pistol striking the tires,” Clinton said. Panola County officers were joined by Carthage Police officers as the vehicle continued into the city on Sabine Street.
“The vehicle slowed on North Saint Mary’s Street where two passengers fled on foot. One was apprehended a short time later while the second is being actively searched for,” he said. Once the occupants bailed the driver continued down South Shelby Street at a high rate of speed and continued south bound on U.S. 59 South.
“The car slowed due to damage incurred during the chase and stopped near CR 414,” Clinton said. “Deputies executed a high risk vehicle stop and the driver was arrested without incident.”
A search of the vehicle revealed multiple suitcases and boxes filled with prescription narcotics, he said.
“In total the pursuit in Panola County lasted approximately 20 minutes. Everybody was safe,” Clinton said. “Our deputies did an excellent job. The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office, the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and our constable’s office; everybody worked really well together.
“Two of the suspects are in the jailhouse now and the other one will be before too long,” Clinton said.
Schools locked down
On Thursday afternoon, CISD officials said dismissal will go on as usual. The following statement was released by the district:
Based on the information provided to us from our law enforcement partners, we will follow our regular procedure for dismissal this afternoon. If parents or guardians would like to make plans to pick up their child who normally walks or rides a bus, please contact the school office ASAP to make those arrangements.
Any after-school activities will continue as scheduled. Any changes or adjustments will be communicated directly from the sponsor or coach.
Bus drivers will be taking extra precautions this afternoon, specifically in the area surrounding Baker-Koonce and Carthage Junior High, to ensure students get inside their houses safely whenever possible. Please be patient as this may cause a slight delay on certain routes.
You may observe an increased law enforcement presence in this area during dismissal. As always, we appreciate our law enforcement partners and their commitment to keeping our Bulldogs safe.