Man driving stolen county bus leads lawmen on 31-mile, 95 mph chase

Michael Douglas Freeman, 63, of 805 S. Steel Bridge Road in Putnam County, racked up an astonishing 35 charges in connection with the the theft last week of a Putnam County Transit bus. He was denied bond during a hearing Monday and remains in Putnam County Jail. (Putnam County Sheriff's Office.)

By Lynn Hobbs and Don Richeson / Staff

PUTNAM COUNTY -- Not wanting to put out his cigarette, a Putnam County man instead stole a county bus and led deputies on a 31-mile, two-county, high-speed chase, where he ran other drivers off the road and rammed multiple vehicles before being stopped in the city of Sparta and booked on 35 separate charges.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, Michael Douglas Freeman reportedly lit a cigarette and started smoking it while riding as a passenger in a Putnam County Transit Bus in the Crooked Creek Road area. Bus driver Linda Grant told Freeman smoking was prohibited on the bus. Another passenger, a man, was on the bus and also told Freeman he needed to put out his cigarette, according to Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills.

Freeman continued smoking anyway, so Grant then stopped the bus and told Freeman to get off. When he failed to do so, she called her boss, who told her to call 911. "When she started to call 911, Mr. Freeman became enraged, took the keys out of the bus' ignition and struck her with them multiple times," Sheriff Sills said. He then used his cigarette lighter to set her hair on fire.

She was able to swat the flames and ...

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