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By STEPHANIE MILLER
An Alpharetta man is in jail today after he allegedly stole an Atlanta area vehicle, wrecked it, took law enforcement on both a vehicle chase down I-16 and a foot chase through the woods, stole another vehicle and then once caught, behaved incoherently.
“Just by the grace of God we were able to get him stopped,” Laurens Sheriff Bill Harrell said Friday afternoon, as he talked about how having a stranger in the county on the loose concerned him until the man was back in custody. “The thing about it is, this person could have broken into somebody else’s house and done more than stealing a vehicle.”
The entire episode began with a call to 911 about a potential DUI driver on I-16.
Laurens Deputy Buck Forte told how the event unfolded in his report. Forte answered the Thursday call in regards to a driver on I-16 in a silver Infinity G20 who was possibly driving under the influence.
He located the vehicle and made a traffic stop with the vehicle at mile marker 56 in the eastbound lanes of I-16 at about 9:30 p.m. Once Forte asked 911 to run the tag number and learned the vehicle had been reported stolen from Atlanta, he told the driver to exit his vehicle. But instead of obeying the request, the driver allegedly put the vehicle in gear and fled the scene with Forte giving chase while calling for backup.
Forte’s report shows he noticed the driver was “all over the road and driving very erratically.”
A short time later the driver drove the Infinity into the median and headed west bound on the interstate. He then crashed the car, which ended up on its side. Forte saw the driver flee into the woods, the report shows.
Law enforcement from both the Laurens County Sheriff’s Department and the Georgia State Patrol came to the site of the wreck to assist in the search. Laurens Sheriff Bill Harrell called for assistance from the Dodge State Prison K-9 search dogs. During the search GSP Trooper Mark Bracewell found a blue-colored back pack containing Zoloft, Buspar and lithium carbonate in prescription bottles with the name of William Johnson on the label.
While officers were still searching the area near where the Oconee River crosses I-16, a call came in that a vehicle had been stolen on B. W. Cook Road. An officer went there and gave out a description of a two-tone gray over silver Ford F-150 extended cab pickup that was stolen from the home, not far from the interstate, a report by Laurens Deputy Cpl. Thad DeLoach shows.
DeLoach noted he was still talking to the victim, L. C. Peacock, when GSP Trooper David Bryant radioed he had found the vehicle on I-16 and was in pursuit of it. The driver then drove the stolen truck into the median and again fled into the woods with Bryant right behind. Bryant was able to apprehend the suspect and place him under arrest.
Laurens Sheriff’s Major Keith Golden said EMS was called to the scene to check the suspect out. He was then transported to Fairview Park Hospital before being taken to jail.
“He was mumbling,” said Golden, adding the suspect, who was identified as William Johnson, was given the medical evaluation for his safety in case he had taken any drugs.
Harrell said the entire time the suspect was on the loose he was concerned.
“The biggest thing that concerned us about it was if someone comes in our county and they’ve already stolen a car and they’ve absconded from us, what they might do,” said Harrell. “Thank the Lord he just went to a home and stole a car and thank the Lord we were close by when it happened.”
Harrell thanked all those officers from various agencies that came to help when called, including the Department of Corrections, the Georgia State Patrol and the Treutlen County Sheriff’s Department. It was a Treutlen County EMS unit that responded to the scene to transport the suspect. Harrell said when he realized the suspect was on the run on the interstate he began to call all those counties in the suspect’s path.