LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Diboll Police officers arrested a 27-year-old East Texas man early Monday morning after he allegedly stole a car at the Love's Country Store on South Medford Drive, used it to smash in the front doors of two businesses, and then led law enforcement officers on high-speed chase from Lufkin to Diboll.
Further investigation revealed that the man is also a suspect in burglaries that occurred in Crockett and Trinity County.
Trampus Lee Smith, of Lufkin, is still being held in the Angelina County Jail on three felony charges - criminal mischief between $100,000 and $200,000, burglary of a building, and evading arrest or detention with a vehicle.
According to the police report, a Lufkin Police officer was dispatched to the Love's Country Store located at 1003 South Medford Drive at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday in reference to a vehicle theft. When he arrived on the scene, he noticed a Mercedes Benz with “significant” damage to its rear end parked in front of the store.
The 1997 Mercedes matched the description of one that had been stolen from a gas station in Hudson Sunday night, according to the report.
The officer made contact with the victim, who said that his silver 2014 Toyota Corolla and been stolen by an unknown man in a cowboy hat. The victim told the officer that he was from out of town and had rented the car from an Enterprise Rental location in Longview.
Surveillance video footage from inside the Love's store revealed that the suspect did walk into the store, but be never looked toward the camera, the report stated.
After the LPD sent out a description of the stolen vehicle and the suspect, another officer spotted the Corolla at the Polk's Pick It Up store located at the intersection of Highway 94 and Loop 287. However, the suspect was able to flee the scene before he could be caught.
Early Monday morning, LPD officers were dispatched out to the Beard's Fine Jewelers store located at 2002 First Street to check out an active alarm. When they arrived on the scene, they found that the front entrance to the jewelry store had been severely damaged.
A silver-colored back bumper was found lying in the pile of rubble around the store's front entrance, according to the report. The report said that both front doors and glass, a concrete wall, a metal sliding gate, the secondary doors, ceilings, and Christmas decorations were all damaged.
Officers at the scene determined that the car parts found among the rubble came from a Toyota.
This is the fourth time the store has been targeted over the last year. Owner Darrell Beard said these crimes are making them more aware of their security system.
"For some reason we seem to have a lot of shoppers that want to come in when the store is not open," Bear said. "We have become very good at this and getting the business back up and open and running."
A short time later, dispatch passed on word that that Texas Coin, which is located at 112 South First Street, had just been hit by a vehicle matching the description of the stolen Corolla. A witness said he heard a loud crash and saw a small, silver car drive away from Texas Coin at a high rate of speed.
Another LPD officer spotted a small, silver car missing its back bumper on South First Street near Peltier Chevrolet. When the officer attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspect allegedly took off at high speed down South First Street, and several other LPD officers joined the chase,
According to the report, the suspect ran the light at the intersection of South First Street and the loop, took the feeder road to Whitehouse Drive, turned left on College Drive, and then turned right on US Highway 59.
The suspect, who was later identified as Smith, allegedly reached speeds of up to 120 to 125 mph trying to escape from the pursuing law enforcement officers. In addition, he kept turning his lights on and off in an effort to get away, the report stated.
After the LPD officers contacted area law enforcement agencies about the fleeing suspect, two Diboll Police officers set up tire spikes near the Diboll Depot Chevron near the town's city limits. The spikes blew both of the Corolla's front tires, and Smith allegedly drove off the road and into a briar thicket near JR's Barn at 1430 North Temple.
Smith then jumped out of the car and fled on foot, the report stated. Officers found him lying down in the briar thicket a short time later. Despite the fact that he allegedly claimed he was a passenger in the vehicle, a Lufkin Police officer identified him as the driver of the Corolla.
When an LPD crime scene tech went over the stolen Corolla, it had glass shards on its rear glass and trunk area and front windshield and hood that could have possibly come from Beard's Fine Jewelers and Texas Coin. The report stated the Corolla had damage all over it.
According to the report, a burglary had occurred at a pharmacy in Crockett before the ones at Beard's Fine Jewelers and Texas Coin and a medicine bottle had been stolen. The medicine bottle was allegedly found in the floorboard of the Corolla.
The crime scene tech also found a light bulb that had been altered to be a methamphetamine smoking pipe in the front passenger seat, the report stated.
Investigators with the Trinity County Sheriff's Office called the Lufkin Police Department and said that a similar-style burglary occurred in that county Sunday night. In that burglary, a white car believed to be a Chevrolet backed into the front door of a liquor store, and the suspect captured on the store's surveillance cameras appeared to be Smith.
The suspect in the Trinity County burglary appeared to be wearing the same white cowboy hat and blue and white plaid shirt that Smith was wearing when he stole the Corolla from Love's Country Store, the report stated.
According to the Hudson Police Department's Facebook page, the Mercedes Benz that Smith allegedly stole had been left running at the gas pump while the owner was inside the convenience store paying for gas. Surveillance video showed the suspect walk to the car and immediately drive off on Highway 94. As in the other times Smith was allegedly caught on video, he was seen wearing a blue plaid shirt and a white cowboy hat.