MADISON - With three state troopers riding hell-for-leather in his wake, Adrian Johnson's 40-mile, high speed flight through Morgan and Putnam counties was finally halted Monday afternoon by a deputy directing traffic afoot at the entrance of Putnam County High School.
The tire-deflation strips Putnam Sheriff's Deputy Tony Snow hauled onto U.S. 441 as the suspect bore down on Eatonton blew all four tires of Johnson's rented 2012 Dodge Avenger, and sent it careening into a fence surrounding the nearby Rock Eagle Technology Park. Even so, it took a 200-yard foot chase and a taser dart to bring down the 6' 5", 240 lb. suspect, who attempted to flee from the scene on foot with a suitcase in tow.
Troopers later found seven pounds of "high-grade bud marijuana" and about four ounces of crystal methamphetamine inside the suitcase, said Sgt. Blake Swicord of the Georgia State Patrol's Criminal Interdiction Unit (CIU), based at the Morgan County Public Safety Complex. Swicord estimated the street value of the illegal drugs at about $30,000.
The chase, which began on Interstate 20 about midway between Madison and Rutledge, proceeded eastbound at speeds between 125-130 mph as the suspect barreled up and down interstate ramps, tore through the parking lot of the Madison McDonald's, re-entered the interstate, and exited I-20 onto Seven Islands Road near Buckhead, enroute to U.S. 441 and Eatonton. Blake said the pursuit speed was so high that his patrol unit took a near-right angle curve on Seven Islands Road sideways.
Other law enforcement attempted to assist the chase, but the suspect and his pursuers were moving at too fast a clip for them to catch up, troopers said.
Sgt. Jeff Duncan of the PCSO was monitoring the chase via radio, and contacted the high school and Snow to alert them that the suspect and troopers were headed their way, Sheriff Howard Sills said Tuesday. PCSO advised the school to go on lock-down status, and Snow swiftly directed buses out of the parking lot, and away from the area. With seconds to spare, Snow moved his patrol vehicle onto U.S. 441, forcing the oncoming suspect into a single lane of traffic where the tire deflation devices had been placed.
Almost a half-hour earlier (around 2:30 p.m.), Swicord and Trooper First Class Matt Moorman had stopped Johnson on a minor traffic infraction (following too close) at Mile Marker 110 on Interstate 20 eastbound. Johnson was dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform and reportedly told the troopers he was coming from a Naval Reserve drill in Atlanta. But, a license check revealed an outstanding warrant for his arrest out of Bamberg, S.C. Troopers later learned the warrant was for the alleged assault of a law enforcement officer, Swicord said.
Once the suspect realized the troopers were taking him into custody, he punched Moorman in the mouth, jumped back into the Dodge, and took off eastbound on I-20, Swicord said.
Swicord was seconds behind Johnson when the suspect's vehicle hit the fence. Johnson jumped from the Dodge, retrieved a suitcase from the trunk, and took off running toward a nearby tree line. As Swicord moved closer to Johnson during the foot chase, he shot him in the back with a taser dart, bringing the pursuit to an end, the trooper said.
The suspect refused to talk with law enforcement following his capture, and troopers later learned that he had left active duty in the U.S. Navy in 2002, and had completed service in the Naval Reserve in 2009. "He apparently was wearing his former uniform in hopes it might help him with any potential law enforcement stops," Swicord said.
At presstime, Johnson, 32, was being held without bond in the Morgan County Jail on charges of trafficking in methamphetamine, felony possession of marijuana, felony obstruction, felony fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement, possession of a firearm during commission of a crime, and "a litany of traffic charges," Swicord said.
In addition to the current charges and assault warrant, the suspect faces an unrelated federal charge of pointing a firearm at another, the trooper said. A 9 mm pistol was found under the front seat of his rental vehicle.