Report of suspicious person leads to high speed chase

Published 2:28 pm Friday, December 18, 2009

The report Sunday afternoon of a suspicious person parked in front of the Nicholson Shell gas station led to a high speed chase that ended in Louisiana.

Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department personnel received the call about the suspicious person at about 3:17 p.m., said Chief Deputy Shane Tucker. The report stated that a clerk at the gas station saw a male suspect with a gun.

A deputy arrived on scene and located the suspicious van, a 1995 Chevrolet 1500, with a North Carolina tag. As the deputy approached the vehicle, he saw a female passenger but no male suspect.

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As the deputy got closer he could see another person in the back of the van moving around. The person in the back of the van then jumped into the driver’s seat. The deputy pulled his firearm and asked to see the driver’s hands as he walked toward the van.

The driver, later identified as 45-year-old John Johnson, put his hands up but then took off in the van and attempted to hit the deputy as he sped away, Tucker said. The deputy had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.

A pursuit began on Mississippi Highway 607 towards Stennis Space Center. Sometime before getting to the north gate Johnson turned the vehicle around and headed back towards Interstate 59 at a high rate of speed, Tucker said.

Additional deputies set up road spikes on Miss. 607 in an attempt to end the pursuit but Johnson avoided the spikes by driving in the ditch. Johnson was able to get onto I-59 heading south and later left the interstate in Louisiana at the Honey Island Swamp exit in St. Tammany Parish, Tucker said.

Pearl River County deputies were able to box him in and get the van to stop. After the van stopped, a deputy got out his patrol car and covered the van with his weapon, but Johnson again sped off trying to hit the second deputy with his van as he sped away. The deputy fired at the vehicle when Johnson tried to hit him with it, but no one was struck by the bullets, Tucker said.

Johnson fled the area, only to stop later on his own accord. Tucker said it is unclear why he stopped, whether the passenger convinced him to or if he just gave up. Both Johnson and his passenger were taken into custody by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department, but the female passenger was later released without charges.

Tucker said the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department is also investigating the incident.

Cpl. Sean Beavers with the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Dept. said Thursday that his agency has charged Johnson with “attemped first degree murder of a police officer” and that the department’s investigation is to determine if additional charges should be leveled against Johnson by the state of Louisiana. He also gave the address for Johnson as 9016 Woodrow Hollow Rd., Pound, Va.

Pearl River County plans to press charges against Johnson for attempted aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and felony fleeing, Tucker said. Tucker said a firearm was not found when Johnson was taken into custody, but said that during the pursuit there were a number of opportunities for Johnson to ditch a weapon, if he had one.

Tucker said Johnson is believed to be on probation or parole with another agency.

No deputies or suspects were injured in the incident.

“It ended safely with no injuries to suspects or our deputies. That’s always the best outcome,” Tucker said.