A 20-year-old Palestine man believed to have stolen two vehicles in different jurisdictions Monday — one at knifepoint — is being held in the Smith County Jail in Tyler.

Tyrone L. Donnell, 20, of Palestine was arrested around 8:30 p.m. Monday at a major intersection in Tyler after allegedly stealing a Good Samaritan's vehicle who had stopped to assist him following a rollover accident, according to Larry Wiginton, lieutenant for the Smith County Sheriff's Department.

Shortly before the alleged car theft, Smith County authorities say Donnell had wrecked a 1999 Ford Expedition on Smith County Road 3203, just northeast of the Tyler city limits.

Approximately seven hours earlier in Palestine, a man residing in the 700 block of West Gilbert Street reported having his 1999 Ford Expedition stolen as he washed the vehicle in the driveway of his residence, according to Palestine Assistant Police Chief Brian Wharton.

Wharton said a 24-year-old man told Palestine police he was washing his Ford Expedition around 1:15 p.m. Monday when a young black male "approximately 20 years of age" with a tall and slender build approached him brandishing a knife "and demanding money."

The 24-year-old man told the perpetrator that he did not have any money and the knife-wielding individual then asked if the keys were in the vehicle, according to Wharton. When advised they were, the man got in the Expedition and drove off, according to police.

The weapon was described as a "hunting knife" with a blade approximately 6 inches long, according to police.

Local units responded to the area, but were unable to locate the suspected stolen vehicle.

Approximately seven hours later around 8:30 p.m. Monday, Smith County sheriff's authorities were notified by a Good Samaritan who reported that a man involved in an accident on Smith County Road 3203 outside of Tyler had stolen his 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier.

The man had apparently been involved in a one-vehicle rollover and the Good Samaritan had stopped to offer assistance, according to Wiginton.

"He (the man later identified as Donnell) asked if he had a cigarette," Wiginton said. "When he (the Good Samaritan) went to get him one, he got in his car and took off."

Smith County sheriff's units responded to the area and began pursuing the suspect near the intersection of Loop 323 and U.S. 271, with speeds reaching as high as 75 miles per hour, according to Wiginton.

The pursuit concluded a short time later in the vicinity of Tyler Junior College near the intersection of South Beckham Avenue and East Fifth Street when authorities set up a roadblock there, the lieutenant said.

After stopping, Donnell refused to get out of the vehicle initially, but was apprehended when officers broke out one of its windows, Wiginton said.

No one was injured in any of Monday's incidents, according to authorities.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Donnell remained in the Smith County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $20,000 on charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and evading arrest/detention with a vehicle.

Donnell will likely soon also face unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and aggravated robbery charges stemming from the events in Palestine, according to Wharton.

The assistant chief said stolen property can change "hands rather rapidly," but acknowledged that authorities are operating on the assumption that Donnell was the car thief in both the Palestine and Smith County incidents.

"We're trying to tie up all the loose ends and make sure we're talking about the same person here who was arrested in Smith County," Wharton said.


Paul Stone may be contacted via e-mail at pstone@palestineherald.com

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