Note: This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. June 28.
The driver of a van allegedly stolen from a woman in a wheelchair in Oak Ridge on Saturday fled from law enforcement officers, running red lights and passing vehicles in the turn lane at high speed, before crashing into a car and a traffic light pole on Clinton Highway in Knox County, an incident report said.
The carjacking was reported in the parking lot of the Red Lobster restaurant on South Illinois Avenue at about 1:50 p.m. Saturday, the Oak Ridge Police Department said. During the carjacking, a female passenger, who was not injured, was forced from her wheelchair and the van, a 2003 Chevy Venture.
Alerted to the carjacking, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Corporal Jonathan Acker went to Oak Ridge Turnpike and Melton Lake Drive to watch for the vehicle. After a few minutes, he saw it traveling east on Oak Ridge Turnpike, and he turned to get behind it.
The driver, later identified as Bradley Allan Thomas, 30, of Knoxville, began speeding up and passing cars on the shoulder, Acker said in the incident report.
“At that time, I activated my lights and siren, and notified dispatch that I was behind the vehicle,” Acker said. “The vehicle went through a red light at the intersection of Oak Ridge Highway and Oliver Springs Highway and continued east.”
Acker and an ACSD deputy followed the van through the city of Clinton, where Thomas passed vehicles in the turn lane and ran red lights, the report said.
“He turned right onto Clinch Avenue and continued to run traffic lights and pass vehicles in the turn lane at a high rate of speed,” Acker said.
The chase continued south on Clinton Highway into Knox County.
“As Bradley Thomas was running the red light at Clinton Highway and Powell Drive, Bradley Thomas struck a black Chrysler 300 sedan that was turning left into the Exxon parking lot, which spun the van into a traffic light pole,” Acker said. “The vehicle came to rest on the west side of Clinton Highway near the traffic light pole.”
Joshua Hamilton of Oak Ridge said he was in a turn lane waiting to turn left and the light had just turned green. He said the van’s crash with the black Chrysler saved lives.
“Had he continued through the light, he would have plowed into all the cars that had just left the light going straight,” Hamilton said. “We never even saw him. He never hit the brakes. I heard the impact and looked up to see the undercarriage of the Chevy van as it rolled in the air and then wiped out on the transformer. It was intense.”
Acker and the deputy approached the van, and they could see that Thomas was seriously injured, the report said.
“After we confirmed that there were no guns on or near the suspect, he was removed from the vehicle and placed on the ground to allow medical personnel to help the suspect,” Acker said. “A large knife was found in the driver’s floor board.”
The suspect, Thomas, was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment. On Tuesday, the hospital said it has no information to release on Thomas.
Acker said he would seek warrants against Thomas for evading arrest and reckless endangerment. On Saturday, the Oak Ridge Police Department said criminal charges are pending against the suspect.
The van, valued at $2,600, was destroyed, according to the incident report.
A company called Carr Rehab has donated a new custom wheelchair for the female victim of the carjacking, and a fundraiser is under way to help buy a new van to meet her transportation needs.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2018 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.