More charges are pending after a carjacking of a van occupied by a woman in a wheelchair in Oak Ridge on Saturday led to a police chase and crash on Clinton Highway in Knox County.
The Anderson County Sheriff’s Department has already said it would seek warrants against the suspect, Bradley Allan Thomas, 30, of Knoxville, and the Oak Ridge Police Department said criminal charges are pending.
Now, in a preliminary crash report, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said it is filing its own charges. They include reckless endangerment, reckless driving, obedience to traffic control signal, failure to maintain lane, improper passing, and driving on a suspended license.
“These are all THP charges and do not include outside agencies’ pending charges,” the crash report said.
An Anderson County Sheriff’s Department incident report said deputies would seek warrants against Thomas for evading arrest and reckless endangerment.
The Oak Ridge Police Department hasn’t identified the specific charges it would file against Thomas.
Thomas was seriously injured in the crash at Clinton Highway and Powell Drive after the police pursuit, and he was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment. On Tuesday, the hospital said it had no information to release on Thomas.
The THP report includes some previously unreported information about the chase and crash.
The report said Thomas was driving a 2003 Chevrolet Venture that was allegedly stolen from Oak Ridge south on U.S. 25W (Clinton Highway) just after 2 p.m. Saturday. He was being pursued by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department.
Thomas was driving in a reckless and unsafe manner by failing to maintain his lane, failing to obey traffic control signals, passing other vehicles improperly, and failing to exercise due care, the THP report said.
Thomas ran a red light at the intersection of Clinton Highway and Powell Drive, according to the THP, and hit the front end of a 2005 Chrysler 300 turning left at the intersection. The Chrysler had a green light, the THP said.
After the crash, the Chevrolet Venture van continued at an angle to the right and hit a utility pole. It then struck a utility box, disabling the traffic control signals for the intersection.
The van stopped a short distance later, the THP said.
Donna Hillard, 47, of Knoxville, was driving the Chrysler 300, and she was injured, the crash report said. The extent of her injuries was not clear from the report.
Both Hillard and Thomas were wearing seat belts.
The carjacking was reported in the parking lot of the Red Lobster restaurant on South Illinois Avenue at about 1:50 p.m. Saturday, according to the Oak Ridge Police Department. During the carjacking, a female passenger, who was not injured, was forced from her wheelchair and the Chevy Venture van.
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 Thomas, 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 van, valued at $2,600, was destroyed, according to the incident report.
The vehicle’s owner, Mary Rose Jackson, told WVLT-TV in Knoxville that her daughter’s wheelchair was completely destroyed in the crash. Family friend Brad Jones set up a GoFundMe to raise money for a new wheelchair. A company called Carr Rehab has donated a new custom wheelchair for Storm, the female victim of the carjacking, and a fundraiser is now under way to help buy a new van to meet her transportation needs.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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