An attempted traffic stop, subsequent sheriff’s pursuit and two near-collisions with school buses filled with children netted Ricky Eugene Johnson, 38, of Palestine, a 35-year prison sentence from 3rd District Judge Mark Calhoon earlier this week.
Johnson agreed to accept the lengthy sentence for evading with a vehicle instead of facing an Anderson County jury on Tuesday for multiple charges arising out of the chase which began shortly before 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 as school buses were beginning afternoon runs.
Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor told the Herald-Press shortly after the incident that ACSO officers Ryan Tolliver and Lee Duren were working surveillance inside the Palestine city limits in an area of suspected criminal activity on Sept. 13, 2012.
Around 3:50 p.m., the officers observed a maroon 2001 Dodge pickup, which had just left the suspected area, fail “to signal intent” to turn on S. Loop 256 near Old Elkhart Road.
“They attempted to stop him there at the loop and Old Elkhart (Road),” the sheriff said. “It (the truck) took off.”
After turning onto Crockett Road and traveling through several neighborhoods, the truck continued eastbound on Park Avenue where it ran a red light at the intersection of U.S. 84 and South Loop 256.
Four troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety joined the pursuit, in addition to Palestine City Marshal Mark Harcrow and a handful of units from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, according to the sheriff.
The pursuit ended at the intersection of FM 1817 and FM 2419 after DPS troopers placed spikes across the roadway.
Johnson and a passenger in the vehicle — Judy Coshanna Minter, 39, of Elkhart — were taken into custody near the disabled vehicle, while a third suspect was able to flee officers on foot.
“They (officers) found some narcotics in the vehicle — some cocaine and some illegal prescription drugs,” Taylor said.
Johnson was arrested on charges of evading arrest with a motor vehicle; possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram; possession of a dangerous drug; evading arrest/detention; and a handful of misdemeanor and other charges.
He also had a felony warrant for his arrest on the charge of engaging in organized criminal activity.
Johnson’s charge of evading with a vehicle is normally a third degree felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but because Johnson has served state prison time for robbery and a federal sentence for counterfeiting, his punishment range was elevated to a first degree felony, which comes with a sentence of 5 to 99 years or life.
Assistant District Attorneys Stanley Sokolowski and Scott Holden represented the State of Texas and local attorney Mark Cargill represented Johnson in the trial.
“This was very dangerous situation created by a dangerous individual,” Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe said. “We’re lucky no one was hurt, especially the children on the school buses.”
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org