LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A man killed in a two-vehicle wreck was being pursued by police investigating a stolen purse.
According to Lufkin Police spokeswoman Jessica Pebsworth, a driver of a blue 2006 Jeep Liberty SUV was filling gas cans at the Love's gas station on the Lufkin loop around 1 p.m. when officers approached him about a stolen purse. The man then drove off from the gas station. He was found near the water treatment plant by the Ellen Trout Zoo.
When the LPD officers attempted to stop the Jeep Liberty, the driver evaded police by driving eastbound on Ellen Trout Drive before he or she made a U-turn and headed west in the eastbound lanes, according to a press release from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Two men were heading back to work after lunch when they saw the chase. They say it was the driver's expression that caught their attention.
"He had this big smile on his face, like laughing because the police couldn't catch him. And that really upset us about it because it wasn't funny," said Paul Brice and Ben Reid, witnesses to the chase.
The SUV was then struck by a 2015 Dodge pickup driven by Robert Allen Brock, 79, of Whitney.
After the wreck, both vehicles wound up in the eastbound ditch of Ellen Trout Drive, and the Jeep Liberty rolled over.
Pebsworth said a woman had her purse stolen from her basket at Home Depot and used a phone tracker to connect the man to the stolen phone and purse.
Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Billy Ball pronounced the driver of the SUV dead at the scene. Robert Brock and his passenger Nitis Brock, 77, were transported to Woodland Heights Medical Center to be checked out. Lufkin animal control officers pulled three dogs out of the pickup.
The Jeep Liberty had been reported stolen out of Crump, Tennessee on Aug. 3, the DPS press release stated.